Beijing can’t let US play games with Iranian energy

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2019/6/23 22:33:40

As Washington and Tehran edge toward a flashpoint on Monday when new sanctions are scheduled to take effect, will the US use the sanctions as a way to pressure China to increase its energy imports from the US, and will the US-China trade war be a factor that determines US strategy on Iran?

US President Donald Trump said over the weekend that he would impose new sanctions on Iran, several days before the G20 summit in Japan at which Chinese President Xi Jinping is likely to meet Trump. The US may try to maximize its interests by tying its Iran and China strategies together.

In August 2018, China announced retaliatory tariffs on 5,207 US products including liquefied natural gas (LNG). Due to trade war fears, some Chinese enterprises reduced energy imports from the US while showing more interest in Middle East energy exporters. According to data from the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, an international governmental organization, Iran ranks first in the world in terms of natural gas reserves and third in terms of oil reserves. Sanctions on Iranian energy will create opportunities for US energy exports.

Trump over the past few years touted his "America First energy policy" with an effort to boost LNG exports. A clean energy revolution is taking place across the US, which is seeking buyers for its surplus energy.

If the US succeeds in driving Iranian oil exports to zero, or the energy transmission networks in the Middle East suffer a blow from a possible war between the US and Iran, China may have to reduce its dependence on energy exports from the Middle East, especially Iran, and reconsider buying US energy products. That is perhaps exactly what the US wants to see. 

Even if China's energy imports from Iran are cut off, China will be very cautious about turning to US sources. The ongoing trade war has made it increasingly urgent for China to cut the links between its energy sector and those in the US. China must reduce its dependence on US energy to safeguard its energy security, which is always a matter of national security.

A war between the US and Iran will be a catastrophe for the global economy. China firmly opposes war and hopes that all parties concerned respect Iran's reasonable requests. China is willing to work with Russia, India, European countries and related parties to find a peaceful solution. At the least, China has reason to prevent the US from gaining benefits from a possible war and economic sanctions against Iran.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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