Iran, China Opening a New Chapter in Bilateral Ties

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Mohsen Shariatinia
PhD, Researcherat The Center for Strategic Research (CSR)
, Tehran

Wang Yi, the foreign minister of the People’s Republic of China, paid a visit to Iran on the official invitation of the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday, February 15, 2014.

There are some noteworthy points about his Tehran trip:

1. As announced by both countries’ officials, the Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to pay an official visit to Iran, which will be the first of its kind during the past ten years. The anticipated trip will be a hallmark in bilateral relations between the two countries and will need suitable grounds to take place. Perhaps, providing grounds for that trip has been one of the key issues discussed by foreign ministers of Iran and China in their bilateral discussions.

2. The foreign policy of China in the period which started in 2012 and will probably continue up to 2022, during which the fifth generation of the country’s leaders will be in power, is apparently undergoing a strategic U-turn. This means that during this period, China is practically leaving behind its past silent and passive diplomacy in favor of adopting a new foreign policy approach that is proactive and based on initiatives. The new Chinese leaders have so far come up with the following initiatives during the past two years:

- Revival of the Silk Road economic highway, whose proposal was offered during a visit to Central Asian countries by the Chinese president. Since that time, China has been ardently pursuing this initiative;

- Proposing a new security structure for Asia, which was offered by China during the latest summit meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA);

- Seeking a new type of relations among big powers (in order to regulate China’s relations with the United States);

- Proposing establishment of an Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank as well as the New Development Bank (NDB), which was formerly referred to as the BRICS Development Bank.

Proposing such initiatives and further activation of China’s diplomatic efforts across the world, clearly shows that Chinese officials are attaching high importance to “global action,” in their new political agenda. This type of action has prompted some people in the Western countries to ironically call it the new “Chinese imperialism.” Iran, for its own turn, is a country, which along with the region where it is located, enjoys high geopolitical and geoeconomic importance. Therefore, it is natural for Iran to be at the focus of attention for any global power, including China. On the other hand, management and regulation of relations with the emerging world power is of high significance to Iran.

3. China seeks a variety of benefits through further expansion of relations with Iran. Economic benefits of relations with Iran will include purchasing more crude oil from Iran and securing a strong foothold in Iranian market and economy, which has been a major goal for China. On the other hand, China wants to use Iran as a leverage in any possible bargaining with the United States, Europe, Israel and the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC]. China also eyes more cooperation with Iran in those areas where the two countries’ interests overlap, including with regard to the ongoing crisis in Syria and fighting Salafist terrorism. At the same time, China is naturally trying to prevent Iran's increasing maneuvering room in international arena from having a possible negative impact on its interests in the above fields.

4. During past years, especially when Iran was under tremendous international sanctions, China insisted that diplomacy is the sole way to find a solution to Iran's nuclear case. Now that everybody believes in diplomacy on this issue, China can play a more proactive role in this regard, though it has practically appeared passive with regard to this issue so far.

5. There is no doubt that China and Russia enjoy enough potential to mount pressure on the US Congress. The US Congress has been trying to make Iran’s nuclear case, which is a key international security issue, a hostage of the United States’ domestic policies. If China shows necessary initiative in this regard, it will have a lot of opportunities for its future ties with Iran. In other worlds, such a behavior by China under the present sensitive circumstances that surround Iran's nuclear case will play a great role in shaping future image of this country among Iranian elites and lay people alike. In addition to playing this role, China can also help establish sustainable stability and security in the Persian Gulf region which is the source of more than 50 percent of Beijing’s imported oil.

6. On the other hand, Iran's national interests call on Tehran to increase the benefits that it can gain through bolstering relations with China. Almost all investments made by China in Iran have become problematic, including commodities exported by China to Iran. Of course, international sanctions against Iran have been playing a role in this regard, but empowerment of a national bureaucratic system in order to be able to bargain with China more strongly is also of strategic importance.

7. Our relations with China are expanding and becoming more sophisticated in time. In addition, China’s power is increasing as well. Therefore, in order to regulate our relations with China in a way that would meet our national interests in the best way, we need to have direct understanding based on Iran's interests of China’s politics and economy. We will also need national consensus and a powerful bureaucratic system to deal with this country in the future. In a bigger picture, Iran's relations with China will be at their best when Iran's maneuvering room in international arena is at its most.

Key Words: Iran, China, Bilateral Ties, Wang Yi, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Shariatinia

Source: Fararu Analytical News Website
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: Press TV