China’s confused role on Iran sanctions

China Hand has a great post today about the notably muddled-looking role that China’s been playing on the Iran sanctions issue.
CH notes that while it’s understandable (given the exigencies of U.S. politics, the big role of AIPAC, etc) why Hillary Clinton came down like a ton of bricks against the Turkey/Brazil deal, what is far less comprehensible is the apparently clear support that China gave to Hillary’s rushed announcement of the new round of sanctions that Washington has been pushing for.
CH notes that subsequent to the release of a first statement that announced the endorsement that China and the rest of the P5+1 group gave to the new sanctions arrangement– and that also justified China’s role in those P5+1 negotiations– Beijing did try to walk its position back a bit, including by giving more props to the efforts of Turkey and Brazil.
The justifications given in the earlier article do, however, give an interesting window into the thinking/argumentation of China’s rulers on this matter and perhaps many other issues in world affairs.
As CH translates them, they cover the following four points:

    Point 1:
    China acts on principle. It is opposed to nuclear proliferation and the possession of nuclear weapons by Iran.
    “At the same time” China affirmed the dual track strategy and “the discussion of the draft of the six nations [i.e., the P5+1] concerning sanctions should not affect the peace and stability or influence the recovery of the international economy.

    Point 2:
    China’s important interests are maintained. China’s important interests are…in the matters of Iran’s energy, trade, and financial sectors. China believes that normal economics and trade should not be punished because of the Iran question nor should those countries that maintain normal, legal economic relations with Iran be punished…Through negotiations, this point was satisfied, doing a relatively good job of upholding China’s…important interests.
    Point 3:
    Maintaining China’s image as a responsible great power…China has repeatedly emphasized although the six nations are discussing sanctions in New York, diplomatic efforts should be completely unaffected. The door to diplomatic efforts has not been closed…China’s consistently positive and constructive attitude has gained the favorable comment of the concerned nations.

    Point 4:
    China has energetically tended to good relations with the various parties…During the course of discussions we have maintained good communications with the various parties, including Iran. We have reported relevant circumstances to the concerned party Iran in a timely manner. We have encouraged and supported Iran’s expansion of cooperation with international society. The most recent conclusion of an agreement of Brazil and Turkey with Iran for the swap of nuclear fuel was also the result of China supporting diplomatic efforts and creating the space and time for diplomatic efforts. This also includes obtaining precious time for the Brazilian and Turkish leaders to go to iran to engage in diplomatic efforts and achieve a positive result. Therefore, the representatives of both Brazil and Turkey have in various venues and through different channels expressed thanks to China. At the same time, Iran has also indicated that this is also the result of the work done by China’s leadership on the Iran side, actively urging and promoting discussions.

I think maybe point 3’s mention of China’s “image as a responsible great power” is the key. It wants to maintain its role in the world economy, as well as its access to natural resources from Iran and elsewhere– all without rocking the boat too much in its relations with Washington?
Well, I guess I can see that that position might have some, very China-centered, logic to it…. over the short term, at least. But it would have been nice to have seen Beijing less ready to be stampeded by the manipulators in Hillary’s State Department (and their very good friends in AIPAC.) It would have been nice to see China a little more ready to embrace the cause of the mid-size nations whose weight in world affairs derives from their soft power rather than their possession of nuclear weapons.

7 thoughts on “China’s confused role on Iran sanctions

  1. Neil M

    Fwiw, I think the attitude of China and Russia toward America can be more accurately predicted by assuming that both are tired of being alternately flayed in public and “entreated” in private by a schizophrenic nation in decline. The result might occasionally extend to talking the talk but will ultimately fall well short of walking it. It’s about respect vs embarrassment and unless America’s manners improve, both can and will follow this course – with impunity.

  2. bevin

    This must be about the ..umpteenth time that the US has announced that it has the agreement of all parties to institute Security Council sanctions.
    They have yet, however, to pass through the SC. Nor is it clear what their purpose would be (except to humiliate the UN and Iran).

  3. escot

    Have another theory to consider here Helena. Isn’t it obvious by now that the draft UNSC resolution had been hammered out long before the Turkey/Brazil/Iran deal….? The “sanctions at any cost” crowd (eg Ross & co) were determined to reject the deal, and had the chutzpah as of Tuesday morning to claim that the draft resolution was somehow agreed upon, or re-endorsed, AFTER the Turkey/Brazil effort. (when it was nothing of the sort had transpired overnight Monday)
    Clinton & Ross wouldn’t be that nervy would they, to call black white?
    Russia today is all but rejecting talk of more sanctions — and wants to see the new deal tested — and further consultations with the non-permanent UNSC members.
    Recall Clinton’s trip too to Brazil — which was hailed as part of her effort to get UNSC members on board in hammering Iran — which insulted and infuriated Brazil at the time. Of course, the US corporate media largely ignored Brazil’s insistence all along that the previous IAEA offer was still a workable framework….
    Back to the UNSC, I have a working hunch that the R10 (the rotating members of the security council) are about to dig in their heels, sensing that for once, they have it within their grasp to outvote the P5. (Of course, if I understand UNSC decision-making patterns correctly, when that reality dawns on the P5, especially China, then the whole sanctions business will be put on the shelf….)
    Ah, but what do I know?

  4. JohnH

    Does anyone know the status of Sinopec’s MOU with Iran? Last November Sinopec agreed to double Iran’s oil refining capacity, which would essentially eliminate Iran’s need to import refined oil products, which constitute 80% of their overall imports.
    For sanctions to work, Iran has to import something. Unfortunately for Washington, Iran has been on an import substitution binge. And they are plowing lots of money into universities educating scientists and technical people, which will allow them to start producing more high tech products, further reducing their remaining import dependency.

  5. John R

    Significant political concesions were given/hammered out by the Administration to both Russia and China over the last few months to make this deal….If they back out now it would be a huge blow to Obama, a direct reflection of his ability to make big trades with two international rivals.
    I hope his star is not falling that fast.

  6. omop

    Neil M’s concise views on the CRUSA ( China Russia, USA_ ) typifies an old French adage, ” Mais non! Apres vous, mon cher Alphonse! “.
    The Obama/Clinton reaction seems purely domesic oriented. And human nature being what it is if Obama/Clinton?AIPAC are intent to adding to the quagmires the US finds itself in the more benefits to the R and C.
    Unless a radical change in US foeign policy, especially vis-a-vis Iran, the ME, and AFPAK there’s only more quagmires ahead.

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