| BEIJING, June 24
BEIJING, June 24 Legendary Chinese oil trader
"Crazy Yang" Qinglong, who started China's oil business with
Iran in the 1990s and was reknowned as a hard-drinker who
bear-hugged Iranian officials, has died, said company officials
and former acquaintances.
"He's a legend, a tough man, a man of perseverance," said an
oil industry executive who plans to attend Yang's funeral at his
hometown in southwestern Yunnan province.
"You can hardly find a second such Chinese official who
achieved what Yang has achieved."
Yang, 62, who died of cancer on Sunday, set up China's state
trader Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp around 1995 after "high-level
military friends" wanted someone to formally import crude oil
from Iran. 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, importing 11 million tonnes 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 U.S.
State Department. The Chinese oil trader brokered the delivery
of more than $500 million in gasoline to Iran between July 2010
and January 2011, contravening U.S. sanctions law.
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.
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.
He would regale dinner companions with how he spent much of
his youth in a mental hospital. Yang called himself "Crazy
"Some (Chinese) officials scoffed at Yang for his not
totally refined behavior like hard drinking, but I respect Yang
as oil industry person who did something to serve the country's
political needs, not just in pursuit of commercial gains," said
the executive who plans to attend Yang's funeral.
Yang was the person who connected China's current state
energy majors CNPC, Sinopec and CNOOC with Tehran, sources said.
Former colleagues attribute Yang's success to his eloquence,
consummate networking skills and ambition.
"Crazy Yang's superb networking skills and his unusual
personality are the valuable assets that few Chinese officials
of his position can match," said a former Zhenrong trader.
In quieter moments, colleagues said Yang was something of a
bookworm and movie-buff. They said he read and re-read
biographies on Napoleon and Hitler and the 18th century Chinese
classic 'A Dream of Red Mansions'. He took staff to the cinema
to watch Hollywood movies 'Gladiator' and 'Saving Private Ryan'.
Yang retired in 2011 to become Zhenrong's advisor.
"China's Iranian oil business has been carried on till today
largely because of Yang's heritage," said the former Zhenrong
(Editing by Michael Perry)