Chinese companies allegedly ship dual-use equipment to Russia exposing loopholes in Western sanctions
China secretly sends enough gear to Russia to equip an army, 24 July 2023
...According to customs records obtained by POLITICO, Russian buyers have declared orders for hundreds of thousands of bulletproof vests and helmets made by Shanghai H Win — the items listed in the documents match those in the company’s online catalog.
Evidence of this kind shows that China, despite Beijing’s calls for peace, is pushing right up to a red line in delivering enough nonlethal, but militarily useful, equipment to Russia to have a material impact on President Vladimir Putin’s 17-month-old war on Ukraine. The protective gear would be sufficient to equip many of the men mobilized by Russia since the invasion. Then there are drones that can be used to direct artillery fire or drop grenades, and thermal optical sights to target the enemy at night.
These shipments point to a China-sized loophole in the West’s attempts to hobble Putin’s war machine. The sale of so-called dual-use technology that can have both civilian and military uses leaves just enough deniability for Western authorities looking for reasons not to confront a huge economic power like Beijing.
The wartime strength of China’s exports of dual-use products to Russia is confirmed by customs data. And, while Ukraine is a customer of China too, its imports of most of the equipment covered in this story have fallen sharply, the figures show.
Russia has imported more than $100 million-worth of drones from China so far this year — 30 times more than Ukraine. And Chinese exports of ceramics, a component used in body armor, increased by 69 percent to Russia to more than $225 million, while dropping by 61 percent to Ukraine to a mere $5 million, Chinese and Ukrainian customs data show.
“What is very clear is that China, for all its claims that it is a neutral actor, is in fact supporting Russia’s positions in this war,” said Helena Legarda, a lead analyst specializing in Chinese defense and foreign policy at the Mercator Institute for China Studies, a Berlin think tank...But, she added, equipment like body armor, thermal imaging, and even commercial drones that can be used in offensive frontline operations are unlikely to trigger a response.
“Then there’s this situation that we’re in at the moment — all these dual-use components or equipment and how you handle those,” Legarda explained. “I would not expect the EU to be able to agree to sanctions on that”...
...[W]ho exactly are those customers? Evidence of deals — importers, suppliers, and product descriptions — can be found in a registry of declarations of conformity by anyone with access to the Russian internet who is familiar with international customs classifications...
One is Silva, a company headquartered in the remote Eastern Siberian region of Buryatia. It filed declarations in January of this year detailing orders for 100,000 bulletproof vests and 100,000 helmets. The manufacturer? Shanghai H Win.
Such importers often bear the hallmarks of “one-day" firms, as shell companies are known in Russia, set up by actors who want to conceal their dealings. They tend to be new, listed at obscure residential addresses, and have few staff or assets. Their financial statements often don’t report the levels of turnover that the filings would imply...