Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Mohammed Rafsanjani - Iran Looks to China: Does That Spell Trouble for the U.S.? - Intro - FORTUNE

Magazine - Iran Looks to China: Does That Spell Trouble for the U.S.? - Intro - FORTUNE: "Iran Looks East
A $70 billion gas deal has brought Tehran and Beijing closer together. And that could spell trouble for the U.S.
By Vivienne Walt

It was 1978, and thousands of students were rampaging through the streets of Tehran, burning barricades and chanting their vision of a radical Islamic republic that would transform Iran forever. Halfway across the world, a young Iranian student was sitting in an economics class at the University of California at Berkeley, listening to his professor's predictions about the future. "He told us to watch China," Mohammed Rafsanjani recalls, sitting in an ornate reception room in one of the Shah's old palaces atop a snowy mountainside in north Tehran. "He said, 'If each Chinese person buys one aspirin, we can sell a billion aspirins.'"

Rafsanjani soon abandoned his doctoral studies at Berkeley and flew home to join the revolution, arriving on the same plane as his hero, Ayatollah Khomeini. But the economics lesson stuck in his mind. And these days he has good reason to think about it. Now gray-haired and 59, Rafsanjani sits on Iran's key governing body, the Expediency Council, which settles some of its thorniest political decisions, including policies on trade. And China? During the past few months that country has arrived in force in this oil-rich nation of 70 million, looking to solve a headache that will take a lot more than aspirin to overcome: a critical shortage of energy for its galloping industrial growth and for the millions of new cars on its roads.

After nearly a year of talks with Iranian oil officials, China's Sinopec Group is set to sign the biggest deal Iran has negotiated in a decade. Its ripple effects over the next few years are likely to extend far beyond Iran's balance sheet. The long-term alliance with the world's fastest-growing economy"


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