One of our greatest weapons against Iran, assuming you wish to avoid a military strike by either us or Israel, is a unified international threat of sanctions. And when you’re talking sanctions you’re talking oil. (It’s their biggest trading card, of course.) So as long as everyone stays on board with the plan, we might eventually move them in a direction we like. Right?

I’m sorry… what was that, China?

China will import crude oil from Iran based on its demand and won’t be influenced by the edicts of “some country,” the former head of China’s National Energy Administration said Sunday.

Speaking at the 2012 Boao Forum in China, Zhang Guobao said recent U.S. and European Union sanctions against importing crude from Iran don’t include “halting normal trade.”

A U.S. appeal earlier this year for countries to reduce crude imports from Iran has pushed up global crude prices, which has been harmful to the global economy, Zhang added. Higher oil prices combined with slower economic growth will also hurt oil demand, he said. Still, global oil prices probably won’t rise much, he added.

Zhang said the release of strategic oil reserves by countries such as the U.S. wouldn’t help keep crude prices in check because “releasing inventory only can affect prices for a short time.”

This shouldn’t come as any surprise. China is an economic ally of convenience, but ideologically they’re still pretty much free range in nature. The Chinese have made huge advances in hydroelectric power and are moving ahead in other areas, but they have very little in the way of native oil production capacity compared to their demand. Further, they’ve never been shy about keeping conflict going between other global entities, as most of these areas of uncertainty add to their own bargaining strength.

What we’re seeing here is a fairly politely phrased announcement which essentially says that they’ll buy the oil they need when they need it at the best price they can find. Much like our own domestically produced oil, the Iranians will find a ready market for all the crude they can pump. Don’t expect China to starve their own industrial needs just to help out western interests by shutting down Iran’s economy.