China Daily

US lawmakers know drill ahead of election

The measure in the US funding legislation unveiled by congressional leaders on Sunday, which seeks to block China from buying oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve of the United States, is more symbolic than of practical meaning.

The issue of SPR oil sales to China actually heated up after US President Joe Biden announced a sale of 180 million barrels of SPR oil in 2022 to tame gasoline prices. Despite only 1 million barrels of that being sold, not to China, but to UNIPEC America, a Houston-based arm of China’s Sinopec, whose business territory mainly covers the United States, Canada and other countries in the Americas, it sparked petulant outbursts from some US lawmakers.

Considering that China imported 563.99 million metric tonnes of oil last year, equivalent to an average of 11.28 million barrels per day. Even if the 1 million barrels of SPR oil had gone to China it would have been no more than a drop in the bucket. But as said, most of it went to the US and neighboring markets.

The China-bashing lawmakers also didn’t bother to mention that the US government was forced to release the SPR oil to tame soaring inflation and high oil prices in the US at that time, which were attributable to the Ukraine crisis that it has orchestrated, as well as the US’ sanctions on Russian oil.

The SPR currently holds more than 360 million barrels of oil, which is close to a 40-year low. That is not caused by China’s buying, but the sales launched by the Biden administration in 2022 in a bid to dispel public anger over rising prices.

What the US lawmakers also didn’t mention was that the oil and energy price in Europe at that time was much higher than that in the US, and the US oil and natural gas companies had taken full advantage of the US-made price gap to make huge and easy profits from the European countries.

The Democratic-controlled Senate actually passed a similar bill last July, 85 to 14, to ban exports to China of SPR oil. But as Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, pointed out at the time, it created the illusion of solving a problem while having very little political impact and likely doing more harm than good, as it is not China but the US oil companies dealing with China that will suffer from such a move.

China’s largest source of oil imports is the Middle East. And almost all major oil producing countries, including the US, which sold 83 million barrels of oil to China in 2022, have maintained steady oil trade relations with China, the world’s largest oil importer. Such diversified oil sources play a crucial role in ensuring the stability of the energy supply chains for China.

That the US lawmakers chose to pour the old wine into a new bottle regarding the small SPR oil trade with UNIPEC America is only political posturing ahead of the upcoming presidential election in November. As has become evident, the desire to take a hard line on China is one of the few truly bipartisan sentiments in the deeply divided US Congress. That means the US House of Representatives will very likely pass the bill in its vote on it, paving the way for the package to head to the Senate before Friday.

As Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin pointed out when commenting on the issue, relevant US politicians should abandon their Cold War zero-sum mentality and ideological prejudice, view China and Sino-US relations correctly, and do more things that are conducive to enhancing mutual trust and cooperation between China and the US, rather than the opposite.

Editorial, China Daily

Categories China Daily Opinion