Future of Iran-China relations

By Mohsen Shariatinia and Ehasn Razani
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, October 23, 2015
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The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear program (JCPOA) moved into the implementation phase. With this deal, Iran's relations with the outside world would witness drastic changes in the near future. Iran's relationship with China will be no exception. What are the most important factors affecting the Sino-Iranian relations in the post-sanction era?

The first influential factor in changing ties between Tehran and Beijing would be the transformation of the U.S. role. As a matter of fact, the United States has always been a key determinant in relations between Iran and China. Since the inception of the Islamic Republic in 1979, the United States has constantly acted as a third player that has negatively affected the Sino-Iranian relations. In the recent decade and with the imposition of sanctions on Iran, the United States played an even more decisive role in deterioration of the Sino-Iranian relations, attempted to limit the extent of Iran-China political and economic links and prevent the deepening of strategic cooperation between the two sides.

The implementation of the JCPOA would reduce one of the key barriers to improving Iran-China relations.The deal made China as a key candidate for peaceful nuclear cooperation with Iran - what that was difficult to imagine during the sanction time. The deal can be even seen as a result of Iran-China-U.S. cooperation. As a matter of fact, it has been the first time in the last 30 years that the three countries have engaged in a strategic initiative. Besides, the JCPOA would likely reduce the U.S. desire to continue its destructive role in the Sino-Iranian relations. The change in the U.S. role would lead Tehran and Beijing to put their relations on a normal, interest-driven, and more stable basis.

The second factor affecting the Sino-Iranian relations is the summit diplomacy. Under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hu Jintao, summit diplomacy did not seem to play a major role in relationships between the two countries. The constructive role of the leaders, however, has increased under Hassan Rouhani and Xi Jinping. The two presidents have met several times and have reached agreements on major issues. Xi's plan to pay a visit to Iran in near future, as the first trip to this country by a Chinese president since a decade ago, can be viewed as an important turning point in bilateral relations. Leaders of both countries have held the same views on issues of the world politics, especially those of the developing nations. With respect to notable role of both the leaders in shaping their countries' foreign policies, summit diplomacy would be of relatively more significance in promoting warmer ties between Iran and China in future.

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