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China ignores sanctions to trade with Iran

For years I’ve heard people say that China isn’t an expansionist military threat on the par of, say, the old Soviet Union.  And for the most part, I believe that.  I do believe they’re a regional expansionist military threat and I also believe they’re building their military with unprecedented spending to fulfill that role.  That’s fairly obvious in their dealings with other Asian countries within the China sea area.

But are they an international threat to peace?

In some ways, absolutely.  For instance, their relationship with Iran threatens to make the unstable Middle East even more unstable.  And they’re blatantly disregarding UN sanction and breaking promises to the US about weaponry they are exporting:

China is continuing to provide advanced missiles and other conventional arms to Iran and may be doing so in violation of U.N. sanctions against the Tehran regime, according to a draft report by the congressional U.S.-China Commission.

“China continues to provide Iran with what could be considered advanced conventional weapons,” the report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission says.

According to the report, which will be made public Nov. 16, China sold $312 million worth of arms to Iran, second only to Russia, after Congress passed the Iran Freedom Support Act in 2006 that allows the U.S. government to sanction foreign companies that provide advanced arms to Iran.

So, essentially China is calling the US bluff and ignoring the UN.  And it is actively trading with a self- declared enemy of the US (and a country which has killed Americans in both Iraq and Afghanistan). 

Speaking of the US, China has even gone further:

Most of the weapons transfers involved sales of Chinese anti-ship cruise missiles, including C-802 missiles that China promised the United States in 1997 would not be exported to Iran.

China also built an entire missile plant in Iran last year to produce the Nasr-1 anti-ship cruise missile.

While the article goes on to say that technically the sale isn’t a violation of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act of 2006 because the payload and range are below the specified minimums, what it doesn’t say is the value of the advanced technology such a sale brings a country like Iran.  Obviously what they learn from the C-802 will be incorporated in their own types of missiles.

The report in which these findings were contained makes a valid conclusion based on them:

The report concludes: “Despite Beijing’s stated claim to be acting as a responsible major power, China continues to place its national interests ahead of regional stability by providing economic and diplomatic support to countries that undermine international security.”

Of course China waves it all away.  I mean, what are we going to do about it?

Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong denied China violated U.N. sanctions.

“When it comes to the issue of nonproliferation, China has been strictly adhering to the relevant U.N. resolutions and faithfully carries out its international obligations while strictly implementing its relevant domestic policies and regulations in the field.”

He said the commission “should cast off its Cold War mentality, respect the facts and stop making unwarranted allegations against China.”

Of course what sales like the ones China has been making to Iran do indeed undermine international security, or, at least Middle East regional security.  Iran now brags about missiles it has that can hit its avowed enemy, Israel, and most of the world believes they’re pursuing nuclear weapons.  These sorts of sales only aggravate that situation.

Israel has to take them seriously and has:

Israel’s test launch of a ballistic missile at Palmachim Air Force Base on Wednesday, in an apparent show of military strength, has ensured the threat of Iran’s nuclear capabilities remains firmly on the public agenda.

International sources quoted in the Israeli media said the test appeared to have been conducted with a ”surface-to-surface” missile known as the Jericho 3, which has a range of between 3000 and 7000 kilometres and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Of course Israel has never publically admitted it has nuclear weapons (but most believe they do) and until this launch never publicly admitted it had a missile with this range.  It was indeed a show of force to make it clear to the Iranians that they had best mind their p’s and q’s.  But it certainly indicates in increase in tensions and a decrease in stability in a region already dangerously unstable.

So we have China ignoring or circumventing international sanctions to trade critical weaponry with a rogue nation with military and regional aspirations and essentially telling the rest of the world to bug off.

The question is “why?”

Is it because it perceives weakness in the US?   Europe?  The UN?   All three?  China has weathered the recession in relatively good shape.  It’s economy is still doing well.  It has been the recipient of a wealth transfer through trade that has enabled it to spend much more freely on its military and it seems to be recognizing a growing vacuum in the world power balance as the US is perceived to be withdrawing some from its position of dominance.

Is China just interested in a regional role, or does Iran signal that China hopes to expand into much more of an international power player?  China watchers who’ve been claiming that it is only regional power which interests the country may have to recalibrate their thinking.   It seems, at least to me, that China sees a much broader role for itself (and its self-interest) in the world and may be beginning to make moves internationally to fulfill that role. 

Of course time will tell, but Iran (and some of its activities in Africa and the China sea)  seems to be a good indicator of a larger desired international role for China  than that which was previously assumed for the country.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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15 Responses to China ignores sanctions to trade with Iran

  • China has weathered the recession in relatively good shape.  It’s economy is still doing well

    >>> Is it really still doing well though? It may look like it’s well but they have lots of bubbles set to burst as well.

  • What, China ignores the UN and the wishes of the world community!  The US would never do anything like that!
    Oh, wait.  Never mind.
    Seriously, China understands that Iran is a regional power and the world has to accept it.  Iran won’t start a war, but wants to be in a position to make it not worth the risk for Israel or the US to attack it.   China is probably sympathetic to that view.  Overall, though, China is most threatened by global economic instability and that means that at base China and the US are natural partners.   China can overlook our invasion of Iraq and actions they opposed, we can overlook their selling of some materials to Iran.   After all, Israel has the capacity to obliterate Iran — any state faced with that kind of threat will want to build its capacity.  And despite bombast from Iran’s relatively impotent President, the Guardian Council has had a patient and conservative foreign policy of establishing Iran as a regional power with influence — and for both Russia and China, Iran is an important Central Asian player.
    The US tends to see things in very simplistic terms (Iran bad, Israel good) and that leads to errors.  A more sophisticated understanding of the regional balance makes it clear that Iran is acting rationally and can be dealt with.  If we won’t deal with them, China, Russia and the EU will.   That’s reality.

    • “After all, Iran has the desire to obliterate Israel — any state faced with that kind of threat will want to build its capacity.”

      There, fixed that for your.

    • Erb, you should publish this analysis in the “Journal of Making-Shit-Up B: Foreign policy, wishful thinking and transcendental unicorn studies.”

    • “That’s reality.”

      If you think that your comment is about reality, Scott, you are psychotic.

    • Hey, Scott, look! Castro is *still* better than Batista! And *so* innovative!

      Cuba legalizes sale, purchase of private property
      http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/C/CB_CUBA_PRIVATE_PROPERTY?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2011-11-03-12-09-35
      HAVANA (AP) — Cuba announced Thursday it will allow real estate to be bought and sold for the first time since the early days of the revolution, the most important reform yet in a series of free-market changes under President Raul Castro.

    • “Iran won’t start a war”
      Hezbollah – Something else Erb managed to never learn anything about.

      • And Yet he was very big on Hezbollah the last time it got into it with Israel. He took its side, essentially. Declared it the winner, endlessly. And Israel was just wrong, as it always is, according to Scott. Just like he was always very very big on the car bombers in Iraq, and on Iran as the big winner in Iraq, yet never crediting Iran with their contribution to the violence. He’s an amazing fellow, this Erb. But the State of Maine keeps paying him, and Maine residents keep sending him their kids.

  • “And despite bombast from Iran’s relatively impotent President, the Guardian Council has had a patient and conservative foreign policy of establishing Iran as a regional power with influence”.

    “The US tends to see things in very simplistic terms ”
    “A more sophisticated understanding of the regional balance makes it clear that Iran is acting rationally and can be dealt with.”

    Yes yes, of course, Mr expert, people who have been working in actual foreign policy for decades in nations world wide know less than a Yoda quoting spiritualist teaching at Mooseville college in Maine.  You know more than the entire Israeli intelligence network about Iran’s plans, and YOU personally will guarantee that Iran is a peaceful planet are just peace loving guys looking to be recognized as a peaceful player in the gulf region and isn’t behind attacks on American troops, or Israel, right?

    And that whole Saudi ambassador thing, did pragmatic President “thinks like me” make that up or was that all just an attempt at a little international comedy?

    “That’s Reality”? you don’t know from reality.

  • The Chinese regime moves like groundwater into situations. They’re an interesting combination of a go-getter society, a slave state, and an international welfare case that wants to be on top.

    I’ll tell you one place they are: Up to their necks in American domestic politics. They’ve bought so much influence here they’ll probably be selling it back to us before long, and I’m not talking about our debt.

    • P.S.: Has anyone looked at Kissinger’s book, recently out, on China?

      • Yes. It’s fascinating. Got a copy signed by Kissinger and was able to talk to him about it. Get a copy if you don’t have it. He believes that China does not want war or direct confrontation with the US, however, in his opinion, China will use other means to push its agenda whether it be regional hegemony or broader power.

  • Plotting an act of war on US soil, by assassinating a Saudi ambassador, is also the behavior of a rational nation trying to correct the regional balance.