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Asia Fact Check Lab: Did the U.S. steal oil from Syria as China claims?

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In Brief

Over the past few months, China has repeatedly accused the U.S. of “illegally stealing” oil from Syria in an act of “banditry.” 

Asia Fact Check Lab (AFCL) found that the accusations echo those made by official Syrian media reports. The Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad has no control over the northeast area of the country, which is occupied by the anti-government coalition known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).  U.S. and international media have reported that a U.S. company had secured an oil deal in the area, but it did so with the approval of the SDF, which helped to oust ISIS terrorist forces that previously controlled the oil production there. The U.S. currently authorizes non-governmental organizations to purchase petroleum in Syria, but the products have to stay in Syria for non-profit use.

In Depth

“The illegal plundering of natural resources in Syria by foreign troops must stop immediately,” Dai Bing, China’s ambassador to the U.N., said during the U.N. Security Council briefing on Syria, according to a Jan. 26 report by Chinese state media Global Times. The article said that U.S. troops have been “slammed” for “stealing” oil from Syria.

China has repeatedly accused the U.S. of taking Syria’s oil in recent months. At a Jan. 17 press conference for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a China Central Television (CCTV) reporter quoted Syrian state news reports that the “illegal” U.S. garrison in the country had smuggled 53 tankers of oil from the northeast province of al-Hasakah into northern Iraq. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin has described the actions as “illegal looting” and “banditry” and said that the U.S. is exacerbating the humanitarian disaster in Syria.

At a Jan. 17 press conference, spokesperson Wang Wenbin claimed the U.S. had “illegally plundered oil” from Syria. Photo/Screenshot of the Chinese Foreign Ministry website.

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Several Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokespersons have accused the U.S. of stealing Syrian oil at several press conferences during the last few months. Photo/Screenshot of the Chinese Foreign Ministry website

Where do these allegations of stealing oil come from?

The information cited recently by the CCTV reporter in the Jan. 17 press conference followed a Jan. 14 report by the Syrian Arab News Agency. The SANA report cites anonymous local sources accusing the U.S. military of stealing 53 tankers of oil. The short report provides few details and only a single photo of an oil tanker. No explanation or sourcing accompanied the photo, and no mention was made of the agreement between the U.S. company and SDF.

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The Jan. 14 Syrian Arab News Agency report on U.S. oil theft. Photo/Screenshot of SANA report

Reporters from official Chinese media outlets quoted similar SANA reports that featured general accusations without any additional context at previous press conferences. The SANA reports never cite the location where the theft allegedly occurred and sometimes appear to reuse the same photo. 

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SANA reports on U.S. oil theft from December, November, and September 2022. Photo/Screenshot of SANA reports

Is the U.S. getting oil in Syria?

Credible media outlets report that U.S. companies have extracted oil in northeast Syria. But Chinese claims that the U.S. is stealing Syrian resources lack sufficient context. 

The SDF occupies the northeastern part of the country, independent of the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad. In 2020, Delta Crescent Energy, a little known U.S. oil company, signed a contract with the SDF that allowed the company to extract oil. The State Department has not disclosed many details about the deal, but a report by U.S. media outlet Politico said that some of the oil was refined to use in the region, with the rest exported to Iraq and Turkey. 

The Syrian government has strongly criticized the agreement, saying that the U.S. is taking the country’s oil without its permission. State-sponsored media in Russia and Iran have also described the U.S. actions as the “theft” and “plunder” of Syrian resources.

U.S. and international media outlets and think tanks have covered the oil deal Delta signed with the SDF in 2020. CNN reported the deal was signed in secret and that Delta Crescent was created by former political and military officials during the Trump administration. News reports note that the agreement was approved by the U.S. in order to keep Russia, Syria’s Assad government and ISIS terrorist forces that had controlled the region from benefiting from oil production there.

A story recently published by Esquire revealed how Delta Crescent was first awarded the contract and the company’s ensuing difficulties with the Biden administration. The company’s license expired in 2021, with reports at the time indicating that the White House planned to abandon support for oil operations in Syria. 

“Syrian oil is for the Syrian people. The United States does not own, control or manage any of those resources, nor do we wish to,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson told AFCL. The spokesperson said the department does not comment on the operations of private companies there. 

The spokesperson told AFCL that SDF will continue to deny ISIS access to oil and gas revenue in northeast Syria, which it previously used to fund its terror campaign. 

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which first authorized Delta Crescent’s oil deal in Syria, now only allows NGOs to purchase refined petroleum products from Syria. The products have to be used in Syria for non-profit purposes. Oil extraction is not an authorized activity, according to the current Code of Federal Regulations and Syria General License issued by OFAC in 2022.

Asia Fact Check Lab (AFCL) is a new branch of RFA, established to counter disinformation in today’s complex media environment. Our journalists publish both daily and special reports that aim to sharpen and deepen our readers’ understanding of public issues.

Read the rest of this article here >>> Asia Fact Check Lab: Did the U.S. steal oil from Syria as China claims?

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China Implements New Regulations for Fair Competition Reviews to Enhance Business Environment

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The State Council released Fair Competition Review Regulations to ensure a level playing field for state-owned and private companies. Administrative authorities must conduct fair competition reviews of policy measures to prevent favoritism. Policy measures that restrict market access, flow of goods, or increase production costs will not be issued.


On June 6, 2024, the State Council released the final version of the Fair Competition Review Regulations (the “regulations), in an effort to “unify the domestic environment” and level the playing field between state-owned and private companies.

The regulations, which are based on China’s Anti-Monopoly Law, will require administrative authorities to conduct fair competition reviews when drafting laws, administrative regulations, local regulations, rules, normative documents, and policy measures (hereinafter collectively referred to as policy measures), to ensure that they do not unfairly favor certain market entities.

The regulations prohibit drafting authorities from including any content in policy measures that may negatively impact market access, the free flow of goods and resources, production and business costs, or production and business activities. Policy measures found to contain any such content during the review process (or that do not qualify for the exemptions, see below) will not be issued.

Specifically, the following content that may directly or indirectly restrict market access and exit cannot be included:

They also cannot include the following content that may restrict the free flow of goods and resources:

Without a legal or administrative regulatory basis or State Council approval, they also cannot include the following content that affects production and business costs:

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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A Timeline of EU-China Relations Post-2024 European Elections

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EU-China relations are crucial in global business, with geopolitical shifts and technological competition shaping the dynamic. The recent EU Parliament elections have brought a political realignment, leading to a more assertive stance towards China. Strategic discussions and new working groups aim to navigate the evolving relationship.


EU-China relations play a crucial role in the global business landscape. The current circumstances, marked by geopolitical shifts, economic interdependence, and technological competition, contribute to the volatility and frequent adjustments in this relationship. In this timeline, we aim to capture key milestones and developments that shape EU-China ties.

The European Parliament elections, held between June 6 and June 9, 2024, have ushered in a new era for EU-China relations. The election results revealed a significant shift in the political landscape, with centrist parties losing ground to far-right groups like the Identity and Democracy (ID) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). This political realignment is poised to influence the EU’s approach to China, introducing more varied and potentially conflicting perspectives on policy.

Traditionally, the EU has maintained a cautious stance toward China, epitomized by the 2019 publication of the EU-China Strategic Outlook, which framed the relationship as one of “partnership, competition, and systemic rivalry.” This tripartite approach was later reiterated in the European Council’s Conclusion on China. However, the narrative toward China has taken a decisive turn with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s speech delivered on March 30, 2023. This speech marked a shift towards a more assertive stance, further strengthened by the release of the European Economic Security Strategy in June of the same year.

In the aftermath of the 2024 elections, the increased fragmentation within the EU Parliament suggests a more complex and uncertain path to forming a cohesive strategy toward China. This uncertainty poses challenges for European companies conducting business with China, as well as Chinese and global businesses operating in Europe, who must now navigate a more unpredictable regulatory environment.

Amid these developments, the Chinese government is keenly observing the evolving dynamics within the EU. China aims to cultivate allies within the European bloc, and this intent was evident during President Xi Jinping’s recent European tour, which included official visits to France, Serbia, and Hungary. During his visit, President Xi reiterated the EU’s significance as China’s major trading partner.

As the new EU Parliament begins its work, strategic discussions have been underway to address key issues, including the EU’s technological and strategic autonomy. To manage different views and promote collaboration on shared interests with China, new cross-regional working groups have been established. These groups are focusing on sectors such as agriculture, aviation, artificial intelligence, energy, and finance, aiming to enhance resilience and foster dialogue.

In this article, we present a timeline of EU-China relations following the EU Parliament elections, reflecting the complexities and opportunities presented by this new chapter in bilateral relations.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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Economic Update: Consumption and Trade in China See Strong Recovery Despite Decrease in Industrial Output by May 2024

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Industrial output growth in China has slowed, with robust performance in some manufacturing sectors but an increase in consumption driven by services, retail sales, and imports. Despite a slowdown, equipment manufacturing has been crucial in stabilizing overall industrial growth. Certain high-tech and electronic equipment manufacturing sectors have shown strong performance, while the automobile manufacturing sector has decelerated due to falling domestic demand.


The data indicates a slowdown in industrial output growth, despite some manufacturing sectors still showing robust performance. In contrast, consumption is on the rise, driven by growth in services, retail sales, and imports. The uptick in these areas suggests a strengthening of domestic demand, spurred by a stabilizing global economic situation and the boost from the Labor Day Holiday at the beginning of May.

China’s foreign trade also continued to show marked improvement, reflecting the country’s strong export capabilities and increasing imports.

Year-on-year growth in China’s industrial sector slowed in May from the previous month but remained relatively strong. Total industrial value-added output grew by 5.6 percent year-on-year in May, a month-on-month increase of 0.3 percent but a deceleration from 6.7 percent year-on-year growth recorded in April. Value-added output of the manufacturing industry grew 6 percent year-on-year, a deceleration from the 7.5 percent year-on-year in April.

According to NBS spokesperson Liu Aihua, equipment manufacturing played a crucial role in stabilizing overall industrial growth. The sector’s added value increased by 7.5 percent from the previous year, contributing 2.6 percentage points to the growth of all industries above the designated size and accounting for 45.7 percent of the total growth. Within this sector:

Certain high-tech and electronic equipment manufacturing sectors exhibited particularly strong performance:

However, the automobile manufacturing sector decelerated significantly from a 16.3 percent year-on-year jump in April to 7.6 percent year-on-year growth in May, possibly due to falling domestic demand.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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