June 25th, 2009
07:27 AM GMT
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In 2005, I took a road trip through Iran.  The sights – such as Yazd, the center of the endangered Zoroastrian religion, and the impressive mosques and madrassas of Esfahan – were some of the most fascinating I have ever seen. 

Also fascinating was what we didn’t see: No McDonald's, no Starbucks or any other globe-trotting American brand. 

Yet in the vacuum of Western products and services brought by financial sanctions against Iran, Asian companies have been eager to fill the void.

Ben Simpendorfer, author of "The New Silk Road: How a Rising Arab World is Turning Away from The West and Rediscovering China,” said trade between Asia and Iran has been surging since 2003.  China accounts for half the increase.  Railways, construction, and consumer goods firms, he says, have benefited in particular. 

Trade sanctions – in place since the 1979 revolution against the Shah – have diverted Iranian trade away from the West and more to the East. The rising trade power of China and other Asian nations with Iran has weakened the effectiveness of sanctions, Simpendorfer said.

"Over the past couple of years, demand from the traditional markets – Europe and the United States – have collapsed," Simpendorfer explained.  "So a lot of exporters in this region are now turning to the developing markets to try to find substitute buyers."

However, some exporters here are starting to face the same pressures as their Western counterparts.  "Asian companies are increasingly finding it difficult to finance their trade with Iran," he said.

Chinese exporters, Simpendorfer said, "are suggesting that they should rely on telegraphic transfers, for example, or euro-denominated trade finance, or even look to try to divert their trade through Dubai as an alternative to directly exporting to Iran."

The current unrest makes the future difficult to read, but Simpendorfer believes no matter the outcome, Iran’s economic ties with Asia are bound to rise.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Nim

    Thats terrific, to see the asians fullfilling the needs of the iranians,and glad that china has come to the party than the oil hungry and self serving western governments, who have only one purpose just to exploit resources for their advantage.

    June 25, 2009 at 10:34 am |
  2. Jack

    There are U.S. products in Iran (Coke, Pepsi, 7UP, Goodyear, Marlboro) and lots and lots of Japanese and Chinese products.

    You wonder, why is it OK to do so much business with China, who sterilizes and imprisons and organ-farms prisonsers... and not Iran, can it be because of Iran-Israel?

    June 25, 2009 at 10:35 am |
  3. Manuel Vilhena

    This is not an easy issue. Iran government see the western world as enemies, I believe, and they try to persuade its people to do the same.

    The world has changed a lot in the last decades and the culture haven't changed that much. Change is difficult to implement and when it comes to culture is even more difficult.

    The candidate that presumably lost the elections, as far as I have been hearing and reading would be much more appropriate to Iran in the world of today.

    The western world is not perfect, far away from that, but is not an enemy either.

    I am looking forward to commenting on your articles.

    June 26, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  4. Jose Moron-Borjas

    “The New Silk Road: How a Rising Arab World is Turning Away from The West and Rediscovering China,” Iran rediscovering China? They do not seem to take into account that China is as much of an empire as Europe and the United States are. As long as they keep thinking of the west as the representatives of evil, they will keep falling into the web of a country that represents as much evil as the ones they hate.

    June 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  5. tanboontee

    Snubbed by the West, it is only natural for Iran to look East.

    The West imposes sanctions, the East (specially China) invites collaborations.

    Who will be the ultimate winner? No prize for the correct guess.

    June 29, 2009 at 2:15 am |
  6. Ruben Vasquez

    there is another fail by the Chinese to support or better off to put your money where your mouth is, why they in the counsel if they using this as a way to profit them self at a first sight. There never is going to be enough sanction to make a country to do what the rest of the world is expecting.

    June 29, 2009 at 12:42 pm |
  7. Sean

    Itd be nice if we could pull our heads out and realize that sanctions against countries like this is almost as good as putting sanctions on ourselves... thats an over simplified statement but there is truth to it.

    June 29, 2009 at 9:09 pm |
  8. Todd

    No big surprise, China refuses to impose sanctions on just about anyone. Their main concern is the almighty dollar. One day China will have the same problems with Iran that everyone else has and will have nobody to blame but themselves. What will China do when Iran drops a nuke on them when they get into a disagreement?

    June 30, 2009 at 8:33 am |
  9. jen

    US trade and economic policies toward China are undermining US economic and military security. They urgently need fundamental reform. Fueled by record global surpluses of production and trade, particularly with the US, China’s modern productive and financial capacities soared, becoming far more diversified and less dependent on the US or on any set of industries. Even as China’s economy grew at record rates, four times faster than the US since 2001. There is a very thorough report at http://www.wesrch.com about China’ soaring commercial and financial power and how it is affecting and will continue to affect the U.S. Here is the direct link if anyone is interested (http://electronics.wesrch.com/pdfEL1GP9E0KLOOC)

    June 30, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  10. sd

    Great China. We love it.

    July 1, 2009 at 2:43 am |
  11. nanozzz

    When you hold a lot of green back in hand and afraid of that they would devalue soon, what will you do?
    I thought China do the right things to help themselves, the only measure that USA can do is to send troops as they do in Irag or send tweeters to Iran as they do now

    July 1, 2009 at 3:57 am |
  12. alan

    we got to make it clear that terrorist regime of IRAN is our enemy. no but or if about it. and if they decide to not sanction Iran , then they will end up doing much less business with the west. Iran is not buying more than west. So since china is only looking and caring about dollar sign and not worry about nuclear issues, and human rights, let beat them on their own turf.

    July 1, 2009 at 6:56 am |
  13. Michael Tennessee

    The U.S. of A. and it's associates should just declare a draft. Set aside the international stigmas, and do what all americans heard the current president of the states hint at doing. Service in a time of war is synonomous with a call to arms. Just do it already. Iran has no intention of acting on the jewish population within it's country or beyond it's borders. Jews are a non-issue.

    July 1, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  14. Kyle Rivera

    NO NO NO.
    None of this stuff matters cause the world is gonna end 2012.
    IF thier is a nuclear war this year, the BELIEVE.

    July 1, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  15. Max

    After 1979, when the West found that Iranians are starting to have their own independent policies rather than complete dependence on Western policy that was considered by Shah, then the West started to use the old carrot and stick policy, while we were approaching 21st century that is the time of money investments and economic competitions. The stick side of the West put more pressure on Iranians but the other side of this stick was the West loosing more and more control of Iran economy and Asian companies taking the place. There was eight years Iran/Iraq War supported by West against Iranians plus sanctions. However, if since 1979, the West policy was invest and control Iran economy, they had much more power to even change regime in Iran. Overall western officials should learn that old carrot and stick policies and military attacks are the old expired policies of Hitler and second World War, which is not working in 21st century or if West try to push it to work, it will lead to third World War with same story of Hitler being repeated for West.

    July 2, 2009 at 2:17 am |
  16. abee

    The best way to promote democracy is to remove the sanction and start trade. Iranians are very smart people, far smarter and educated then arabs and israelis. Sanction will not work on them. Its time for new open minded approach and big time trade with iran.

    July 2, 2009 at 2:17 am |
  17. normal

    with china doing business with anyone to build up their military, yes we are punishing ourselves with sanctions,china steps in to fill the void

    July 2, 2009 at 3:27 am |
  18. GH

    it's good to see countries are finding ways around the financial bullying by the US and the west (aka sanctions) the days of the "my way or no way" is over. the uprising against the Shah (who is a US controlled puppet in power) was a struggle to get independence. it just goes to show if you really want something, it's worth standing up for yourself.

    July 8, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  19. Sam

    U.S government is being annoyed of losing control as before, and not becoming the central dynamic force that is guiding rest of the world. As a result, we can clearly refer what is currently happening in Iran and China to the U.S stealthy hand there. All these critical turbulences weakens both countries, which will allow U.S to gain control again, as what it did in Iraq, Afghanistan, but failed in Lebanon because of the existence of the Glorious Hezbollah, men of resistance!

    July 16, 2009 at 8:10 am |
  20. CHINA

    A country like China are able to see opportunities within every nation unlike the US who believe everyone is out to get them and try to exploit other country resources. iran have nukes so? what happens if the US defaults and becomes the enemy who going to defend against them. I believe all country should have the right to defend themselves against attack and be responsible for their military power.

    July 16, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  21. sun

    china is the only country that can balance the US power today.

    July 20, 2009 at 8:36 am |
  22. Long-hwa

    So long as there are safe havens for tyrants and terrorists, and so long as rogue nations and regimes have friends on the Security Council (e.g. China and Russia), the world will continue to veer towards conflict. China's decisions are always first given from the perspective of a fellow tyrant, as the Communist Party is a totalitarian government.

    For this reason, China will go to great lengths to protect any dictator who seeks help, from Myanmar to Cuba, Venezuela to North Korea, Sudan to Zimbabwe, Vietnam to Libya . Whether seeking arms or protection, money or succor, the world's worst tyrants can always rely on China to lend a hand (with Russia not too far behind).

    Those who like to bash the U.S. are usually simply reflecting envy, and they will be hard pressed to explain why democratic nations have the highest standard of living, and tyrannies do not. For China to step onto the world stage, it must first rid itself of the tyrant in its midst. The most telling statement about the CCP's malignant intent is its policy that the Chinese people need to be told what to do, and that freedom is not for China. Just ask Jackie Chan. The bad news is that the CCP has intentions to spread this system throughout the world.

    By the way. Freedom house lists the countries the most "unfree" in the world. (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0930918.html) Six of the eight listed are as follows:
    Myanmar (Burma)
    North Korea

    It is no coincidence that this is also a list of "The best friends of China." Think about it. How can a country pretend to be a global contributor if that is true?

    September 15, 2009 at 9:26 am |

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