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Exodus by big firms pushes Iran toward smaller Chinese enterprises

To mitigate the impact of harsh US sanctions, Iran is increasingly turning to China by dispatching high-ranking delegations to Beijing to augment trade. But China is also mindful not to cross the red lines drawn by the United States.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi iduring their meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China February 19, 2019. How Hwee Young/Pool via REUTERS - RC12EA87AC90
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China is still Iran's top trade partner, leading oil customer, a key technology exporter, a major political ally and one of the signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) still committed to the deal. All of this has given Beijing an increasingly central position in Iran's "Look to the East" doctrine, a key foreign policy strategy actively pursued by the Islamic Republic after the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May 2018.

The recent visit to Beijing of a senior Iranian delegation comprising the parliament speaker, ministers of economy, oil and foreign affairs, the central bank governor and senior lawmakers shows how Iran is banking on China as US sanctions are hitting the Iranian economy hard.

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