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Last year, China replaced the United States as the No. 1 importer of oil from Venezuela, yet another front in the heated rivalry between Washington and Beijing.

The United States had imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s state-owned oil company as part of a bid to topple that country’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro. U.S. refineries stopped buying Venezuelan crude. Caracas’ ally China, long a major customer, suddenly found itself as the top purchaser. Through the first six months of 2019, it imported an average of 350,000 barrels per day of crude from Venezuela.

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