Rubio’s bill to sanction China’s purchase of Russian oil ridiculous
Published: Jul 27, 2022 10:34 PM
Illustration: Tang Tengfei/Global Times

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/Global Times

US Republican Senator Marco Rubio, known for his radical anti-China views, along with fellow Republicans, on Tuesday introduced a bill that is seeking to sanction China's purchases of oil and other energy supplies from Russia, according to a Bloomberg report.

The bill is aimed at cutting off funding to Russia by imposing penalties on any entity insuring or registering tankers shipping oil or liquefied natural gas to China from Russia, according to Rubio's office. Any entity, including Chinese state-run companies helping Russia should face serious consequences, Rubio said in a statement.

With the US midterm election approaching, it is not surprising to see radical anti-China politicians like Rubio dream up such a new bill to gain media attention amid the US' poisonous political climate, in which politicians compete over toughness on China instead of solutions to countless US domestic issues. The move lays bare the US politicians' ignorance and lack of common sense when it comes to US economic woes, some of which were actually caused or exacerbated by the US' relentless sanctions on other countries.

Since the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out, there has been concern about the possibility of the US and its allies imposing secondary sanctions against China over the China-Russia energy trade. But anyone who holds the idea needs to know how far-fetched and dangerous such sanctions could be. 

For starters, while Russia is under sanctions from the West, countries that have not joined the Western sanctions are not subject to the restrictions when it comes to purchases of Russian oil and other energy supplies. Every country has the right to decide where to buy energy products from based on their own needs and interests. 

Indeed, it is not just large oil importers such as China and India that are buying Russian oil these days. European countries will continue their purchases, too. Last week, the EU said it would allow EU companies to purchase Russian seaborne crude oil and to ship oil to third countries under an adjustment of sanctions agreed by member states.

With so many countries and entities around the world continuing purchases of Russian crude oil, where on earth did these politicians derive the confidence and reason to propose such an absurd bill against China's purchase alone? Had they really studied what is going on in the global energy market before introducing such a ridiculous bill?

Over the past few months, global crude oil markets have been buffeted by a series of supply problems, which have led to international oil prices staying close to $100 a barrel, a relatively high level compared to previous years. Amid tight supply, US President Joe Biden even urged Saudi Arabia to boost oil production during a visit in mid-July.

With global crude oil still in tight supply, if China's purchase of Russian oil is hindered, one possible outcome is that the world's largest crude importer will have to compete with other buyers for oil supplies from the Middle East or elsewhere. This will not only cause huge disruption to global energy supply and demand patterns, but will also drive up oil prices significantly, a disaster for the US economy with its inflation hitting four-decade high.

In fact, the idea of imposing sanctions on entities helping China's purchases of Russian oil is even at odds with what senior officials in Washington is up to. In order to tame the high inflation, the Biden administration has made it clear that it aims to keep oil supplies flowing while limiting Russia's energy revenue by putting a price cap on Russia's oil prices. 

In this sense, the ridiculous bill to sanction Russian oil sales to China is unlikely to pass, but it still shows how chaotic US politics is. It is in this chaotic political soil that radical and irrational politicians like Rubio can politicize almost any issue regardless of facts and economic rules, thus aggravating its domestic economic problems to gradually become a crisis for the world.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.