BEIJING, March 25 (UPI) -- Demand for Russian crude oil in the Chinese economy is expected to hold steady, despite economic faltering in both countries, a Chinese trader said Wednesday.
Chinese officials are describing a "new normal" in an economy slowing from a long period of double-digit growth. For Russia, sanctions pressure in response to crises in Ukraine and the decline in crude oil prices is pushing the country toward recession.
Chen Bo, head of the oil trading subsidiary of China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., said from a bilateral energy forum in Beijing both countries would remain strong energy partners.
"Compared with 2014, Russian oil exports to China will be approximately the same in 2015 or slightly higher," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the 2010 launch of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline as a strategic victory for a Russian energy sector looking to capitalize on Asian economy success. The Chinese trader said oil demand was expanding and more volumes were expected through the ESPO pipeline.
Russian oil pipeline company Transneft said it plans to increase the yearly capacity through ESPO by 80 percent by 2018.
Russia's pivot toward the Asia-Pacific offers a buffer against a European Union frustrated with the former Soviet Union's influence in the regional energy sector.
An opinion piece in China's official Xinhua News Agency said the economy is slowing in a manageable way. The "new normal" is desirable because it means less reliance on exports, it said.