Following on yesterday's post about China's pursuit of Nigerian oil, the CS Monitor today has an interesting piece on why China is unlikely to support sanctions on Iran - even if today's US-Iran talks go badly (which many suspect they will). The bottom line: oil, of course! China imports nearly 15% of its crude oil from Iran, and has recently started selling refined gasoline to Iran. What's more:
Chinese state-owned oil companies have signed three multi-billion dollar deals with Iran this year to develop oil and gas fields there, in a bid to establish a strategic hold over resources not under the control of Western oil firms.
"Iran has bountiful energy resources, its natural gas reserves are the second largest in the world, and all are basically under its own control," former Chinese ambassador to Tehran Sun Bigan wrote in the latest issue of "Asia and Africa Review," published by a prominent government think tank.
China also became a partner this year in a proposed pipeline carrying gas from Iran to Pakistan. Since India dropped out of the project, the pipe is now due to carry gas north from Pakistan into China, indicating Beijing's strategic vision of its future energy supplies.
As I've noted on countless previous occasions, China is in many respects the classic textbook case of realist politics, with primacy placed on its national interests and security over all other matters and considerations. It comes as little surprise, then, that Beijing remains unwilling to crack down on Tehran: Tehran has what Beijing wants and needs, and the Chinese will be damned if anything gets in the way of that. If you're waiting for Chinese sanctions on any oil-exporting country, you may be waiting a while...