U.S. Defense Department officials have been busy spreading the message that in the event of an intensified conflict with China, CENTCOM could cut off China’s oil imports by blocking oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz, most notably, along with some other chokepoints. In terms of potential foreign policy stances, this isn’t the 1940s anymore—this a world of entrenched globalization, and the knock-off effects of such a move would have far-reaching consequences well beyond any sanctions on Russian oil over Ukraine.
The argument being circulated by certain DoD officials is this: Because some 98% of China’s energy imports from the Middle East traverse the Strait of Hormuz, cutting off this chokepoint would do severe damage to Beijing, and CENTCOM is positioned to step in.
The variables to consider here are many and varied. First, China is increasing its intake of discounted Russian crude as a fairly fast clip, though the Saudis remain China’s top oil exporter. China’s imports from Russia rose nearly 9% in April alone, year-over-year. Year-to-date imports from Russia rose 26.5% to 32.4 million tonnes, compared to Saudi imports, which were up 2.9% to 31.28 million tonnes.
Cutting off Middle East oil exports to China would be an immediate boost to Russian oil, of course, and Putin’s war with Ukraine is a long war that will not likely see any resolution. At best, it will become a frozen…