Beijing sharply increased its imports of Iranian crude in the final month prior to the expiration of US sanctions waivers, Business Times reported, citing information from the General Administration of Customs of China. Beijing reportedly purchased 3.24 million tonnes of Iranian oil in April, which is a 21% increase compared to last year, and a 4% rise compared to March 2019.
The news comes amid a report by The Wall Street Journal saying that China has complied with the US sanctions and ceased purchasing crude from Iran following the end of Washington's waivers. However, Iran's Deputy Oil Minister Amir Hossein Zamaninia stated on 5 May that the country is planning to continue selling its oil using "grey market" mechanisms even after the expiration of the US waivers, although he admitted that the volume would drop.
The US granted waivers to eight countries buying Iranian oil - China, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey after imposing sanctions on Tehran's energy, banking and shipping sectors in November 2018. The waivers lasted for six months and in April, Washington announced that it wouldn’t extend them, with the expressed aim to drive Iran’s oil exports down to "zero".
Following the announcement, on the one-year anniversary of the US' unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran stated that it would suspend implementing some of its "voluntary" commitments under the accord, citing the inability of foreign states to withstand the pressure from the US. Russia and China have accused the US of trying to ruin the international accord.