Tough sanctions against Iran could have serious economic consequences for China, one of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council. Any significant disruption of China’s oil and gas supplies, coupled with setbacks to the country’s development deals in those sectors, could hamper Beijing’s scramble to ensure that its booming economic growth keeps pace with the rising expectations of its people.
China, the world’s second-largest consumer of oil, gets about 11 percent of its oil imports from Iran and has signed billions of dollars in contracts for Iranian oil and gas projects. The Financial Times recently estimated that Beijing is now Tehran’s largest trading partner.
However, China has left no doubt that it also wants to be considered a major player in crucial world issues such as stopping nuclear proliferation in Iran and elsewhere. Beijing’s rulers have signaled their willingness to juggle hot-button domestic concerns such as Taiwan and Tibet, which they sometimes use to stir anti-Western sentiment, with their growing attention to international strategy.