China could consider increasing its natural gas trade with the United States despite worsening relations between Beijing and Washington, a former Chinese official said, while also “cautiously” increasing energy commerce with Russia. Relations between China and the US remain tense despite a flurry of diplomatic activities over the past year, adding to concerns among businesses over the risk of a decoupling between the world’s two largest economies. “Right now, China and US relations are at their worst in history,” said Zou Ji, a former deputy director general of China’s National Centre for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation under the economic planner National Development and Reform Commission. “I believe the status quo won’t be changing much in the next five, 15 and even 20 years. “[More gas trade with the US] could strengthen the degree of ties.” China’s imports as liquefied natural gas (2021) Country Billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) Australia 4.1 Rest of world 1.6 US 1.2 Qatar 1.2 Malaysia 1.1 Indonesia 0.7 Russia 0.6 Source: US Energy Information Administration, based on data from China’s General Administration of Customs and Global Trade Tracker Zou, who is now the head of Energy Foundation China, a non-government research group, said while there are “some concerns” in China about buying more liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the US due to the current geopolitical tensions, growing energy trade between the two countries could form a “community of shared interests”. He added that stronger commercial interests will help prevent any unilateral actions that could destabilise trade. And even as Western countries back away from Russia’s oil and gas trade following its invasion of Ukraine, Zou said when it comes to diversification, China should continue to “cautiously” maintain or even increase energy trade with Russia. He said, however, that there are growth “limits” as energy imports make up a relatively insignificant amount of China’s overall demand. There are always going to be risks and there are opportunities Zou Ji “With oil, there aren’t that many regions that offer exports,” Zou told an online seminar on the energy market arranged by Renmin University of China on Wednesday. “So there are always going to be risks and there are opportunities.” China is the world’s top energy importer and Russia has been an important trading partner by supplying oil, gas and coal. But Chen Zhanming, a professor with Renmin University of China, also b elieves China should be cautious with its oil and gas trade with Russia. The experience in Europe reminds us that over-reliance on a certain country, transportation and the type of energy will bring in huge risks to energy security Chen Zhanming “Western countries are imposing energy embargoes and financial sanctions on Russia. China needs to respond with caution,” Chen told the seminar on Wednesday. “On the one hand, it needs to protect the energy security of its imports, and on the other hand, it has to avoid being sanctioned. “The experience in Europe reminds us that over-reliance on a certain country, transportation and the type of energy will bring in huge risks to energy security.” China’s LNG imports averaged 10.5 billion cubic feet per day last year, a 19 per cent rise compared with 2020, according to the US Energy Information Administration. LNG imports made up for more than half of China’s overall natural gas imports and 30 per cent of China’s total natural gas supply in 2021. China’s appetite for Russian energy hit by poor consumption, soaring prices Last year, China imported LNG from 25 countries, with Australia, the United States, Qatar, Malaysia, Indonesia and Russia among the largest suppliers, the US Energy Information Administration said. Over the last 12 months, pipeline crude oil deliveries to Europe and China accounted for 16.9 per cent and 18.4 per cent of Russia’s total pipeline crude oil shipments, respectively, according to a report by the International Institute of Finance earlier this month. China’s stated objective is to limit its reliance on individual crude oil supplies from any one country to around 15 per cent. In 2020, Saudi Arabia and Russia both reached the threshold, according to the International Institute of Finance.