‘Badge of Honor’: US Senator Seeking China Oil Export Ban Welcomes Beijing’s Wrath

‘Badge of Honor’: US Senator Seeking China Oil Export Ban Welcomes Beijing’s Wrath
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks at the Heritage Foundation in Wash., on March 29, 2022. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Eva Fu

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was one of four U.S. lawmakers targeted by the Chinese regime's retaliatory sanctions two years ago. And the pressure from Beijing hasn't eased since.

Data analytics from the past few months showed a sharp rise in attacks from Chinese media outlets and social media targeting the senator, who has been at the forefront of calling out threats from communist China.

That includes close to 200 censorious mentions over a half year period, escalating in late March following Rubio’s speech, in which he called the Chinese Communist Party “the greatest threat facing America today,” and again in late May after the Uvalde shooting, when Rubio criticized the NBA for “politicizing a horrific tragedy in America” but refraining from talking about “the billions they make from a China that enslaves Uyghur Muslims and harvests their organs.”
“Anti-China pioneer” and “anti-China vanguard” were some of the remarks that appeared on Chinese media in that period. The reactions from the Chinese authorities were noticeable because generally, “Chinese media only react to what they perceive to be aggression by U.S. politicians rather than instigating an attack,” read an analysis by a tech analytics firm shared with The Epoch Times.

Sending Oil to Genocidal Regime

Such attacks reached a new height on June 16, a day after Rubio and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) introduced the "China Oil Export Prohibition Act" in a bid to ban the U.S. exports of oil and petroleum products to China that they said would “unwittingly aid and support our primary adversary.”
“While gas prices soar across the country, the Biden Administration is allowing half a million barrels of American oil to go to China every day,” Rubio said in a statement accompanying the bill. “This is unacceptable. We need to increase American oil production and give priority to domestic consumers, not send oil to a genocidal regime half a world away.”
China, the world’s largest oil importer, is one of the top five destinations for both U.S. petroleum exports last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The United States exported approximately 8.63 million barrels per day in 2021. Exports to China represented 7 percent of this total.

The proposed ban set off the strongest protests so far from China's state media networks, with posts springing up labeling the senators as “infamous” and “anti-China,” a trend map analyzing the Chinese information environment showed.

“Rubio and Scott are forcing the issue of soaring prices in the United States on China,” read one June 16 post by news aggregator Guancha shared to its 18.7 million followers on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.

Chinese internet trolls also circulated Rubio’s reaction to China's launch of its first domestically built aircraft carrier featuring electromagnetic launch catapults, allowing it to field more varieties of aircraft with heavier payloads and more fuel.
“U.S. anti-China lawmaker Rubio fired up: soon the world will have two aircraft carriers using electromagnetic catapults, one of which will come from China,” Air Force World, a military-focused Weibo account, declared to its nearly 8.5 million fans on June 16.

'I’m Not Surprised'

The senator, who became subject to Beijing’s retaliatory sanction in July 2020, said seeing such language from the Chinese communist state apparatus was no surprise to him.

“I am already banned and sanctioned by Beijing, and now this,” he told The Epoch Times.

“I’m not surprised—the Chinese Communist Party hates anyone who acts in the interests of America instead of China,” he said. “It is a badge of honor that the Chinese Communist Party sees me as a threat to their anti-American agenda.”

The 2020, Chinese sanction targeting Rubio came just days after the United States blacklisted four Chinese Communist Party officials linked to the persecution of the Uyghur population in China’s Xinjiang, where over 1 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities are detained in internment camps and subject to physical, mental, and sexual torture.

Both the Biden and Trump administrations have determined that the regime's repressive policies in Xinjiang are a form of genocide.
On June 19, two days before the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act that Rubio championed came into force—barring imports of goods from China’s Xinjiang region over forced labor concerns—China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs named the lawmaker in a lengthy article titled "Reality Check: Falsehoods in U.S. Perceptions of China." The ministry accused Rubio of trying to “whip up the ‘genocide’ accusation” regarding Xinjiang.

Rubio, a leading member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, a bipartisan bicameral agency monitoring human rights and rule of law development in China, cheered the implementation of the Uyghur forced labor bill on June 17.

“The United States is sending a clear message that we will no longer remain complicit in the Chinese Communist Party’s use of slave labor and egregious crimes against humanity,” he said in a collective statement with three other authors of the bill.
Eva Fu is a New York-based writer for The Epoch Times focusing on U.S. politics, U.S.-China relations, religious freedom, and human rights. Contact Eva at [email protected]
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