China is providing technology and equipment to Russia that is increasingly important to Moscow’s war in Ukraine, according to a newly released report compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The report, titled “Support Provided by the People’s Republic of China to Russia” and dated 2023, is unclassified and largely cites open-source data and western press reporting to support its claims. But it includes the US intelligence community assessment that China “has become an increasingly important buttress for Russia in its war effort.”
The report says that as of March, China “had shipped more than $12 million in drones and drone parts” to Russia, citing a “third-party analysis” of Russian customs data.
Chinese state-owned defense companies have also been providing sanctioned Russian government-owned defense companies with other dual-use technology “that Moscow’s military uses to continue the war in Ukraine,” the report says, including “navigation equipment, jamming technology, and fighter-jet parts.”
Semiconductor exports from China to Russia have also jumped considerably since 2021, it adds, with “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of US-made or US-branded semiconductors flowing into Russia” despite heavy western sanctions and export controls.
The report says Chinese firms are “probably” helping Moscow to evade these sanctions – though it is “difficult to ascertain the extent” of that help. The report says the intelligence community cannot be sure whether Beijing is deliberately interfering with the US’ ability to conduct export control checks, via interviews and investigations, inside China.
The report does say, however, that China “has become an even more critical economic partner for Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.”
A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington said China “upholds an objective and just position” on the conflict.
“On the Ukraine issue, China upholds an objective and just position, actively promotes talks for peace and has played a constructive part in facilitating a political settlement of the crisis,” said Liu Pengyu.
“China does not sell weapons to parties involved in the Ukraine crisis and prudently handles the export of dual-use items in accordance with laws and regulations,” Liu said in a statement to CNN.
“China-Russia economic and trade cooperation is completely above-board,” he said. “It does not target any third party and shall be free from disruption or coercion by any third party.”
The countries are using domestic payment systems more frequently for transactions in order to circumvent Western banking systems that Russia has been cut off from, the report says, and China has been increasing its imports of Russian oil and gas supplies. Those supplies have been largely banned by the US and Europe in an attempt to cut off Russia’s war chest.
The report was mandated by the FY2023 Intelligence Authorization Act passed by Congress, and was released by House Intelligence Committee Democrats on Thursday.
“This unclassified assessment, mandated by last year’s Intelligence Authorization Act, details the extent of China’s support for Putin’s ongoing invasion,” Democratic Rep. Jim Himes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. “Russia’s war against Ukraine has been enabled in no small part by China’s willingness to support them, in direct and indirect ways. I hope this report makes clear to Beijing that the United States, and the world, will know if they take further actions to enable Putin’s brutal invasion.”
The Biden administration has repeatedly raised concerns with China about evidence it has suggesting that Chinese companies have sold non-lethal equipment to Russia for use in Ukraine, but US officials say they have seen no signs so far that China has provided weapons or lethal military aid to Russia.
The US believes that at the outset of the war, China intended to sell Russia lethal weapons for use in Ukraine, a US official previously told CNN. But China significantly scaled back on those plans as the war progressed, this person said – something the Biden administration has considered a victory.
China has claimed neutrality over the war in Ukraine and called for peace in the conflict. But Beijing has also avoided publicly criticizing Russia’s war efforts and the two countries have repeatedly emphasized their cooperation, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu declaring a “boundless” military partnership after a meeting in April.
This story has been updated with additional information.