Sino – Iran relations in the light of the 25-year cooperation document

Authors: Mahdi Torabi and Alireza Soltani

Foreign policy is the intersection of internal and external variables of countries. China has the capacity to become an influential power due to a number of factors. These factors include several components such as a very strong economy, large population, vast territory, nuclear weapons, veto power in the UN Security Council, and geopolitical position. Therefore, the examination of China’s foreign relations with great powers and other regional powers becomes particularly important.

With the signing of a comprehensive 25-year cooperation document between Iran and China in 2021, there were hopes to change the relations between the two countries from a traditional to a modern state, but after the changes in the JCPOA and the tightening of sanctions, the process of improving relations almost underwent changes and transformations. In this regard, it can be said that the agreement known as the comprehensive cooperation program between the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran is not the first experience of Beijing’s participation in foreign relations, but in recent years, it has used this type of model in determining its foreign behavior towards other countries. In general, China has been a leading country in partnership diplomacy.

Iran and China, as two important regional powers and two influential global actors, have defined their relations in all levels of issues and bilaterally and multilaterally. Due to the fact that Iran is an actor whose playing field is regional but its playing level is international, it has faced various conflicts from other actors, both regional and international, and therefore it needs to use all its ability to move in the field of diplomatic power rather than coalition. To prevent the anti-Iranian construction that was followed by the initiative of the West and especially the United States.

The current conditions of the international system are such that the development and survival of the countries located in each region depends on their cooperation, alliance, alliance and self-help. On the other hand, the level and quality of cooperation is directly related to geographical features, political, economic and cultural capacities of countries. The bilateral and multilateral relations between Iran and China are no exception to this rule. These two countries have gone through many ups and downs in bilateral relations from the distant past until today, and today they have some common and aligned views and capacities in some political, economic and important regional and international issues.

With the signing of the agreement known as the 25-year comprehensive cooperation program between the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the scope and fields of economic cooperation between the two countries will increase in the regional and international arenas, and if this document is implemented in a proper and diplomatic manner, the most important The intersection of this cooperation is in regions such as the Middle East and Eurasia.

China is a country that is being upgraded in the international system and if a country is not ready to cooperate and have relations with it, will encounter problems, so it is necessary to look at China seriously and also the spirit governing the comprehensive document of 25 years of cooperation between Iran and China should be economic, because China does not want its relations with Iran to damage its relations with other countries in the region and even the United States.

The idea that the comprehensive cooperation document known as the 25-year agreement means the unity and harmony between Beijing and Tehran in the field of foreign policy lacks any clear vision based on the propositions of neorealism. Diversification of the foreign policy portfolio is always considered one of the effective elements in the development of countries. However, it should not be overlooked that Iran’s foreign policy is suffering from a great imbalance and the lack of simultaneous communication with Europe and America can become the main weakness of these cooperation.

At the same time, the intertwining of the Chinese and American economies and the parallel relations with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Israel and Turkey make Beijing operate its cooperation with countries such as Iran with great consideration and slowly. However, the lack of timely revival of JCPOA and the continuation of sanctions have actually made it difficult to implement the provisions of this document.

Today, the lack of a clear perspective in the field of revitalizing the JCPOA and lifting sanctions has made the Chinese government – which has an economy-oriented and trade-oriented foreign policy – less motivated to get closer to Iran. This lack of motivation has also made the Chinese government prone to take some anti-Iranian positions in order to strengthen its relations with Iran’s neighboring countries, including the Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia.

China currently expects stable conditions from Iran in the field of foreign policy. China has a strong long-term planned strategic policy towards different countries and regions, including Iran. The recent relation between China and Saudi Arabia showed that the Chinese will not wait for Iran forever and ultimately the Chinese prefer their national interests over all international commitments.

In the meantime, even the proponents of this cooperation document believe that cooperation with China alone cannot meet Iran’s needs and that the Islamic Republic should have a positive balance in foreign policy, normalizing relations with the international system on its agenda. The normalization of trade and economic relations with the world is also an important strategic benefit, which sends a message to powers such as Russia and China that Iran always has other options and that its security and economy do not require their absolute support, secretly buying oil, and exercising their veto rights in the Security Council.

In the next 25 years, various changes will definitely happen in the international system and various powers will rise and fall, and along with that, economic, political, cultural relations and all issues in the international arena will change.

Therefore, every country and nation moves in line with its national interests. What are fixed and permanent are national interests. In regional and global policies, relying on rationality and national interests, one should cooperate with others, and it seems that the relations between Iran and China should also be a function of this model.

Mahdi Torabi
Mahdi Torabi
Mahdi Torabi is head of planning unit at department of the international affairs of the Railway of the Islamic Republic of Iran.