In his time as China’s top oil trader, Yang Qinglong was known to have deep military connections and a certain flamboyance toward his Iranian suppliers: he often bear-hugged them.
When Yang died of cancer aged 62 on Sunday, he had become a legend.
“You can hardly find a second such Chinese official who achieved what Yang achieved,” said an oil industry executive who plans to attend Yang’s funeral in southwestern Yunnan province, his hometown. “He’s a legend, a tough man, a man of perseverance.”
Yang set up China’s state trader Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp. in 1995 after “high-level military friends” wanted someone to formally import crude oil from Iran, according to Reuters.
At the time, Iran was supplying oil to China to pay for arms supplied by Beijing during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
By 2001, Yang’s state trader was supplying 16 percent of China’s crude imports, buying 11 million tons of Iranian crude or 220,000 barrels per day.
A decade later, Zhuhai Zhenrong was the biggest supplier of refined petroleum products back to Iran, according to the United States State Department.
The company brokered the delivery of more than US$500 million in gasoline to Iran between July 2010 and January 2011, contravening US sanctions.
Yang was a hard-drinker from a military background who always wore an army green jacket with a matching canvas bag slung over his shoulder, the report said.
Stories of Yang banging his fist on a table demanding that a Chinese refiner take Iranian oil or how he greeted Iranian officials with a bear-hug and hoisted them into the air, painted an image of a larger than life character and led to his “Crazy Yang” moniker.
Yang retired in 2011 to become Zhenrong’s advisor.
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