China's nitrocellulose exports to Russia up sharply since invasion of Ukraine

Chinese exports to Russia of nitrocellulose -- a dual-use material that can be used to produce ammunition -- have surged since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

Nitrocellulose is a highly flammable compound that is used in the production of paint, varnish and ink, as well as ammunition.

NHK analyzed data published by China's customs authorities dating back to 2015. It found there were hardly any nitrocellulose exports to Russia between 2015 and 2021. But these exports jumped from May 2022, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine.

In 2022, China exported a little over 700 tons of nitrocellulose to Russia. In 2023, the amount nearly doubled to over 1,300 tons. About 110 tons were exported from January to March this year.

China has been exporting nitrocellulose to various countries, including the United States and France. But the US is concerned about China's exports of the dual-use material to Russia.

When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited China in April, he conveyed these concerns to President Xi Jinping and other senior officials.

China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reacted sharply on Thursday, saying China has been strictly controlling the exports of dual-use materials. He said it is unacceptable that the United States tries to put the blame on China.

Yamamoto Katsuya of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation is an expert on China's military affairs. He says it is natural to assume that Russia is importing the compound from China to boost production of ammunition for use in its war in Ukraine.

Yamamoto says if exports of the material have significantly increased since the aggression began, it can obviously be considered as Chinese military assistance to Russia.