“China consistently opposes U.S. unilateral sanctions,” Geng Shuang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on April 22, when the State Department announced the imminent end of the waivers. “The Chinese government is committed to protecting the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese enterprises.”
Zhuhai Zhenrong and Sinopec, another state-owned enterprise, are the two main Chinese companies that import Iranian oil.
Tankers have been unloading millions of barrels of Iranian oil at Chinese ports, where the oil is being kept in what is called “bonded storage,” Bloomberg News reported on Monday, citing people familiar with the actions.
The oil has not passed through Chinese customs or shown up on national import data and may not technically violate the American sanctions because it is still owned by Iran, the report said.
The United States has already gone after a Chinese company in one prominent case related to Iran sanctions.
In December, at the request of the United States, Canadian officials arrested Meng Wanzhou, a top executive of Huawei, the giant Chinese technology company, as she was passing through Vancouver. The Justice Department is seeking her extradition to the United States on charges of lying to Western banks in a scheme that allowed Huawei to secretly violate sanctions on Iran. The Justice Department opened the investigation during the Obama administration.
In mid-June, China received its first delivery of Iranian oil cargo since the Trump administration ended the oil waivers on May 2, the Financial Times reported, citing data from TankerTrackers, which monitors oil shipments through satellite signals and imagery. In that case, the tanker Salina, which can carry up to a million barrels of crude oil, docked at Jianzhou Bay, near the east coast city of Qingdao, on June 20 and unloaded over two days.
Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, has called on the Trump administration to take tougher action to end all Iranian oil exports. After the Financial Times published its report on June 26, Mr. Rubio wrote on Twitter, “The Administration stopped issuing sanctions waivers for Iranian oil exports in May, yet China just received massive oil cargo from Iran.”