China’s Gold Imports From Russia Up 67.3% In 2022
China stepped up imports of gold from Russia in 2022, according to data released by the Chinese Ministry of Customs last week. Last year, China bought a total of 6.6 tons of Russian gold, worth a record US$386.9 million, including shipments in both unprocessed (3.7 tons) and semi-processed form (2.9 tons). In December alone, gold shipments from Russia to China totaled 220.2 kilograms, worth US$14.85 million. Much of that demand would have been used in Chinese New Year related consumer artifacts and the electronics industry.
Overall, Russian gold exports to China soared by 67.3% in physical terms and by 63.3% in monetary terms from 2021.
However, Russia’s share in Chinese gold purchases remains small. The main supplier of gold to China is Switzerland, with sales in 2021 totaling over US$34 billion. Rounding out the top five suppliers to China are Canada, South Africa, Australia, and Hong Kong.
Russian gold exports began to fall under Western sanctions in mid-2022. The EU, UK, US, Japan, and Canada banned the purchase, import or transfer, directly or indirectly, of gold originating in Russia and exported from the country. Prior to sanctions, the UK was the largest buyer of Russian gold, having acquired 266.1 tons (88% of total exports), worth US$15.4 billion, in 2021.
Gold has three major uses; one in jewelry, where China has become a major global consumer of gold, as a currency hedge when the global financial system becomes stressed, as is currently the case. Economies and traders tend to buy gold during such times as its value increases, one reason why it hit an all-time high of US$2,075 an ounce in March 2022 last year.
Gold is also used in certain industrial applications. The metal is inert, however is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, being used extensively in the electronics industries in items such as printed circuits and in transistors. The circuitry of computers, calculators, televisions, telephones, and fire detectors are often plated with gold.
Russia has the world’s second largest gold mine deposits after Australia at an estimated 6,800 tons. China is eighth with about 2,000 tons. The United States has gold reserves estimated at 3,000 tons.