Geithner asks China for help with sanctions on Iran

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is visiting Beijing looking for support for U.S. sanctions on Iran's oil industry. But China is in no hurry to help.

Kai Ryssdal: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner found himself in Beijing today for a sales pitch of sorts. Geithner's asking China to join the United States in putting economic sanctions on Iran.

From Shanghai, Marketplace's Rob Schmitz reports -- it's going to be a tough sell.


Rob Schmitz: Usually when Secretary Geithner comes through Beijing, he's meeting with China's leaders to try and get them to do something about their undervalued currency. Beijing's usual response?

Crickets chirping

Tsinghua University Business Professor Patrick Chovanec says Geithner can expect much of the same this week as he tries to get China's leaders on board for sanctions on Iran.

Patrick Chovanec: From their point of view, this is the U.S. coming over and trying to twist their arm to get them to do something that really is America's problem. Not theirs.

After all, says Chovanec, nuclear weapons launched from Iran won't be heading to China. That's because China is the largest Asian importer of crude oil from Iran.

Peking University's Zha Daozhong says whether China will go along with a U.S. call for sanctions on Iran will hinge on one thing:

Zha Daozhong: The big question is: Is this just sanctions, or is it the prelude to another round of military actions in the Persian Gulf?

Tsinghua University's Chovanec says China may take a wait-and-see approach for another reason.

Chovanec: As fewer customers are lining up to buy Iranian oil because of U.S. pressure, the Chinese are the last best customer left standing, and that gives them a lot of leverage.

In other words, with hardly anyone left buying Iranian crude, one of China's biggest supplies of oil just got a lot cheaper.

In Shanghai, I'm Rob Schmitz for Marketplace.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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