With China’s Xi meeting Russia’s Putin and discussions of geopolitical shifts, it is important to note that Ukraine and China were strongly growing their relationship prior to the war, especially growing economic ties.

 To understand how China may go forward, it’s important to understand how it has and could benefit from further partnering with Ukraine. 

1.     China recognized Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty in December 1991. The most recent highest-level diplomatic milestone between the two countries was a telephone call between Presidents Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Xi Jinping in July 2021 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Joint Declaration on Establishment and Development of Strategic Partnership Relations between Ukraine and the People’s Republic of China.


2.     China had replaced Russia as Ukraine’s number one trade partner by 2019. 

3.     During the last 25 years, exports from China to Ukraine have increased at rate of some 20% per year – from $73.4 million in 1995 to $7.46 billion in 2020. Ukrainian exports to China had quadrupled from 2018 to 2021.

4.     According to the State Statistics Service of Ukraine, in 2021, the trade turnover between Ukraine and China amounted to $19 billion, including exports of Ukrainian goods to China of $8 billion (an increase of about 13%) and imports of Chinese goods to Ukraine of $11 billion (an increase of roughly 32%).

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5.     China is a major buyer of Ukraine’s corn, barley, and sunflower oil. In 2021, grain imported from Ukraine accounted for 20% of China’s total imports of those grains. It was the top importer of Ukrainian barley. In 2019, Ukraine had replaced the U.S. as the largest supplier of corn to China; it accounted for 80% of China’s total corn imports.

6.     Ukraine has been a major arms supplier to China, second only to Russia. China is the largest buyer of Ukrainian arms. China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, is a refurbished Soviet aircraft carrier purchased from Ukraine.


7.     China has been an active investor, contract constructor, and financier of projects in important sectors in Ukraine, among which maritime transport (including the Mariupol and Odesa ports), other transport infrastructure including Kyiv Metro renovations, agriculture, energy, and telecommunications.

8.     In 2021, Chinese companies obtained more than $6.6 billion for construction work in Ukraine. The three largest engagements are with China National Machinery Industry Corporation, China Hydropower, and State Grid.

9.     China sees Ukraine as a key transport hub of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Ukraine’s free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) makes it an attractive transit point for Chinese goods.

10.  Some 6,000 Chinese citizens live in Ukraine. Up to 100,000 Ukrainian citizens could be living in China.

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