From among the most outspoken of critics of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, China has emerged as one of the biggest economic beneficiaries of the war, snagging five lucrative deals. While Western firms were largely subdued in their interest in Iraq’s recent oil auctions, China snapped up three contracts, shrugging off the security risks and the country’s political instability for the promise of oil.
The quest for crude has left a heavy Chinese footprint in a number of countries where others have shied away, whether because of violence, human rights violations or sanctions.
In the broader Middle East, China has helped develop and expand the oil industry in Sudan, a nation whose president is under international indictment for war crimes. It has also signed deals in Iran, where the hardline government is facing a potential fourth round of U.N. sanctions over its controversial nuclear program. Iran has denied claims by the U.S. and others that its nuclear efforts are geared to weapons production.
The result of its efforts is that about half of China’s oil comes from the region. It has ousted the United States as OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia’s top oil customer. Saudi Arabia has also set up a joint venture refinery in China.