Russia and China are destined by geography and development to be linked. For its part, China needs to import large quantities of oil (and gas). Oil production in the country grew faster than consumption through 1986 and net production remained positive through 1992. In 1993, however, China became a net importer of oil. In 2009, it passed Japan to become the world’s second-largest importer, trailing only the United States.
Russia, meanwhile, is endowed with large oil reserves (and enormous gas reserves) and seeks to export much of what it produces to foreign countries, including China. No matter how much officials talk about the need to diversify Russia’s economy, and no matter how much progress is actually made in that endeavor, energy will continue to serve as Russia’s principal export for a long time. China is the fastest-growing importer in the world, and it would be foolish not to pursue that market. [...]