China's  J-10C lightweight fighter

Beijing: Beijing is hesitant to let Iran have its J-10C lightweight fighter jet in a barter trade for oil or natural gas, according to military analysts.

Minnie Chan in an article in South China Morning Post (SCMP) wrote that Tehran is said to be interested in buying 36 advanced Chinese fighter jets but finding the cash could be difficult.

As per SCMP, there were reports in Chinese media about Iran's interest in J-10 jets after UN's 13-year arms embargo on Tehran expired in October 2020. Th UN embargo prohibited Iran from buying foreign weapons like tanks and fighter jets.

Zhou Chenming, a researcher with the Yuan Wang think tank, a Beijing-based military science and technology institute, is of the view that deflation of Iran's official currency, the rail, in recent years had forced the Tehran government to hold on to as many foreign currencies as possible.

Due to deflation, Iran wants to barter trade J-10C lightweight with its oil and natural gas, but China is hesitant to go ahead with it.

"The key problem is Iran can't pay dollars or euros in cash to China, they prefer using oil and natural gas to exchange weapons," said Zhou.

Military analysts say now is not the time to exchange weapons for oil but believe Beijing is considering the move.

"However, China has accumulated too much energy reserves... business is business, all arms deals want to make money. It's impossible for China to get a bad bargain," added Zhou.

Shanghai-based military expert Ni Lexiong said China should prioritise its own economic considerations, after its bruising trade war with the US, which started in 2018, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"Holding more cash and foreign currencies is always the top priority when dealing with an economic crisis. China doesn't need so much raw petroleum amid current economic setbacks, with prices of oil and gas decreasing day after day," Ni said.

Closer security ties between the two-countries were seen as part of the 25-year strategic cooperation agreement signed in March between Beijing and Tehran to address economic issues amid crippling US sanctions on Iran, wrote Minnie.

Concrete details of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership were not released, but according to China's state broadcaster CCTV, it covers economic activity from oil and mining to promoting industrial activity in Iran, as well as transport and agricultural collaborations.

The J-10C is an upgraded version of China's single-engine, lightweight, multi-role J-10, which was designed for air-to-air combat. The advanced version is powered by a modified engine designed for stealth and thrust vectoring.

Trade between Iran and China has been worth some USD 20 billion annually in recent years, down from nearly USD 52 billion in 2014 because of US sanctions imposed in 2018 after Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of a nuclear deal between Tehran and the world powers, saying it needed to be renegotiated, reported SCMP.