Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

23 Jan, 2012

Chinese Researcher: Beware Of US Game Over Iran

By Mei Xinyu (China Daily)

The author is a researcher at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, affiliated to the Ministry of Commerce.

Published in China Daily, 2012-01-20 — The United States is expediting its efforts to persuade its allies like Japan and the Republic of Korea to reduce their oil imports from Iran. Even the European Union is weighing options to impose a ban on Iranian oil.

China, however, has no reason to follow the US and impose economic sanctions on Iran. Contrary to the US’ understanding, Premier Wen Jiabao’s Middle East visit aims at deepening cooperation, including accelerating the free trade zone negotiations, between China and the region.

Bulk commodities are special products whose prices are greatly influenced by politics, and from uprisings to sanctions to war, anything can turn the tide in the international market. But fuel oil is different. That explains why international oil prices remain strong despite the fall in the prices of other bulk commodities.

The Persian Gulf has long been troubled by threats of war, and now the US is lobbying the international community to put the screws on Iran. But China should read into this game and refrain from succumbing under other big powers’ pressure. There are certain things China should keep in mind.

First, the sanctions against Iran date back to 1984 or even earlier and have been led by the US instead of the United Nations. Washington loves to call itself “the international society” and is prone to imposing unilateral sanctions without UN approval. Legally, China is not obliged to do the same unless the UN Security Council passes a resolution. China should follow its own course, for Sino-Iranian trade is in accordance with international laws.

Second, China’s foreign policy seeks peace and development to create a stable environment for its own and the world’s development. Imposing fresh sanctions on Iran will only worsen the already tense situation in the Gulf region and add uncertainties to the world economy, which is struggling under the impact of the EU and the US debt crises. The recent fluctuations in international bulk commodities’ prices and currency exchange rates have already proved that.

A war in the Persian Gulf will deal a deadly blow to the already fragile world economy. As a responsible country, China cannot support some powers’ irresponsible actions, for they will only increase the risks. So it’s high time the US reviewed its abuse of sanctions as a weapon to penalize its opponents. It led 77 of the 116 sanctions from 1914 to 1990, and participated in more than 60 of the about 80 cases after the end of the Cold War. These sanctions have hurt half of the global population, which is in stark contrast to the US’ claim of taking the decisions “for democracy and freedom”.

Third, joining the US to impose sanctions on Iran will hurt China’s own economy. Iran is an essential overseas market for goods, especially technology-intensive ones, from China, which built the subway in Teheran. So China should not forfeit the Iranian market just to please the US.

Oil imports from Iran are very important for China. If China stops importing oil from Iran, it will face immediate shortage of fuel. Even if China can meet the shortage by importing from other countries, it would have to pay high prices and meet harsh conditions, which will deal a terrible blow to its economy. China has long suffered the whims of big oil-exporting companies and it’s time their monopoly was curbed.

According to a new act signed by US President Barack Obama, the US has prohibited foreign financial institutions doing business with Iran from entering that country’s financial market, a move considered harsh by many observers.

But do not forget other obstacles for China’s financial institutions upon entering US market. China should not give up a huge cake for this small loss.

Facts prove that US-led economic sanctions have often caused humanitarian crises instead of “liberating” people in many countries. Sanctions imposed on Iraq reduced its per capita income from $4,000 in 1991 to about $300 in 2000, forced the cancellation of its free education system that had existed for more than 30 years and killed 1.73 million Iraqi people, more than half of them children, because of malnutrition or lack of medicines.

Besides, we should not forget that the US imposed sanctions on Iraq and attacked that country in 2003 on the pretext that Saddam Hussein had amassed “weapons of mass destruction” only to be proved wrong.

How can some countries continue to cause such tragedies and hold innocent people to ransom?

The US often shoots itself in the foot by imposing sanctions on its opponents. For example, it imposed sanctions on the former Soviet Union in 1981, but it couldn’t stop West European countries or Japan from bidding for Soviet construction projects. In the process, the US lost about $2.2 billion. The share of the US in Western exports to the Soviet Union dropped from 25 percent in 1978 to 0.4 percent in 1984. Apart from suffering a huge loss, the US also faced increasing frictions from some European countries and Japan.

If sanctions can only hurt people, why can’t the US stop the damaging practice and try to resolve the issues through talks?