If what ft.com (registration required) is reporting is correct, Iran may backdoor sanctions by bartering with (wait for it) China.
…China is dominant in Iranian business and could use a barter system to balance trade between the two countries. Beijing is involved in everything from building tunnels to exporting toys and has been expanding into Iran’s oil sector, where European companies such as Shell and Total have been deterred by the difficulties of operating without contravening sanctions.
China and Iran’s bilateral trade totalled $29.3bn last year, up almost 40 per cent from 2009. The two countries this month signed several infrastructure and trade collaboration agreements that would see Chinese companies invest in big infrastructure projects in Iran, while Iran would export large quantities of chrome ore to China, according to local reports.
Why is China doing this? Possible answers include (but are not limited to) 1) because they value the oil Iran provides above all, 2) because they have to do something with the army of engineers and scientists they’re pumping out each year, 3) because they don’t really want Iranian sanctions to work, and 4) because they can.