US bill blocking China from buying oil from Strategic Petroleum Reserve just political stunt: experts

US Congressional leaders on Sunday unveiled budget legislation that would prevent China from purchasing oil from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), according to Reuters. However, the move will have little to no impact on China and is merely a political stunt, experts said.

Congressional negotiators unveiled the 1,050-page bill that lays out funding for six of the dozen segments of the government that Congress is charged with allocating money, with the next six due by later in the month. The US House will have to vote on the bill first before the Senate can take up the package before Friday, Reuters reported.

Last July, the Senate passed a bill 85 to 14 to ban exports to China of SPR oil. The issue of SPR sales to China heated up after US President Joe Biden announced in 2022 the sale of 180 million barrels of SPR oil to tame gasoline prices that spiked after the Ukraine crisis.

In 2022, the SPR sold 1 million barrels to UNIPEC America, a Houston-based arm of China's Sinopec. In 2017, under former US president Donald Trump, some SPR oil was sold to PetroChina International, a subsidiary of PetroChina, Reuters reported.

The ban is more of a political stunt rather than a substantial action, as speaking harshly about China has become one of the cheapest ways for politicians to quickly attract attention, experts said.

The move will have minimal impact as China's reliance on US imports is very low, let alone oil from the SPR, Lin Boqiang, director of the China Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, told the Global Times on Monday.

"It is akin to saying I won't sell you something when you weren't buying it in the first place," Lin said.

Lin noted that China primarily imports oil from the Middle East and Central Asia due to cost and transportation convenience.

In 2023, China imported 563.99 million tons of crude oil, climbing 11 percent year-on-year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

In response to US Congress' passing a bill to ban the sale of US strategic petroleum reserves to China, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin urged the US to abandon the zero-sum mentality.

"We urge relevant US politicians to abandon the zero-sum Cold War mentality and ideological bias, form a right perception of China and China-US relations, and contribute to mutual trust and cooperation between China and the US, not otherwise," Wang told a press conference in January 2023.

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