China and Iran. one is a world-renowned superpower, and the other is an influential regional power. One is geopolitically located in the Far East, and the other is between two important and unstable regions, which are geopolitically called the South Caucasus and the Middle East.
Understanding their geographical locations, it is not a secret that they are located very far from each other, therefore, a number of questions arise here. Why do they think about relationships? What kind of areas are included in their relationship? And the most important thing, what kind of influence do these relations have on the two mentioned regions, in particular, the South Caucasus and the Middle East?
To study and understand all this, it is necessary to go through some class series. First of all, it is necessary to refer to the history, understanding the development experienced by their youth over the decades, and then move on to the current circumstances. In this regard, it is necessary to understand exactly what kind of processes they were involved in, purely economic and bilateral diplomatic, or other processes that can have significant consequences on the two regions, the South Caucasus and the Middle East.
And why is it important to master the mentioned subject well? Does it have anything to do with Armenia, or simply in terms of awareness and development? Surely he has. China, being one of the most powerful states in the world, makes large investments in the South Caucasus, which increases its influence in the region day by day. And Iran, as already mentioned, is a regional power, whose position and situation has a great influence on neighboring countries, including Armenia. Therefore, taking into account the position enjoyed by these two states on the global and regional arenas, their every step directly leaves their mark on Armenia, which is a neighboring state of Iran.
The study of the relations between China and Iran leads us to K.A. 200 years. Their cultural and economic spheres have been greatly influenced and developed since ancient times, through the Silk Road. Taking a step forward, we reached the states that exist today, that is, the People’s Republic of China and the Islamic Republic of Iran. What stages has their relationship gone through over the decades?
The revolutions of China in 1949 and Iran in 1979 had the greatest impact on Asia and confronted the international system, especially the Western World. Before the revolution of 1979, most of Iran’s exported coal was sent to Western Europe and the United States, but after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, Iran’s relations with Western countries deteriorated. This situation turned the two states, China and Iran, into natural friends. Iran found in China an ally to fight against the United States, and China found in Iran an important fuel partner, which it needed thanks to its rapidly developing economy. However, China, being a candidate for becoming a world superpower of those days, also had other tendencies to strengthen its ties with Iran.
The first turning point is the Iran-Iraq war that took place between 1980-1988. As a result of the ammunition sanctions imposed by the Western countries, Iran turned its sights to the Eastern countries, including China. To give some idea. at that day’s tariff, China sold 6.3 billion US dollars worth of weapons and ammunition to Middle Eastern and South Asian countries during 1979-1985. As for Iran, during its eight-year war, China sold a variety of ammunition worth approximately 2 billion US dollars, which enabled Iran to continue its indefinite war with Iraq (Yacoubian, 2023).
In other areas of cooperation, in 2010, when the United States and the United Nations imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas fields, China continued to be Iran’s friendly country. Iran continued to export and sell coal to China through unofficial means. And according to the official data, which became available after the 2015 agreement between Iran and the world powers, suspending the sanctions imposed on Iran, the list of the largest suppliers of Iran’s coal became clear, with China taking the leading position, being the highest importer of 28% in 2017 (Yacoubian , 2023). Likewise, when the United States re-introduced sanctions on Iran in 2018, its largest market became Asian countries, especially China, which continued to introduce the Iranian stone against the aspirations of an independent United States.
Since its establishment, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been in conflict with Western countries, particularly the United States. Moreover, there are other forces in his southern region that are continuously fighting against him. The leaders are Israel and Ceuta Arabia. In order to face the current situation and get out of isolation, China has been a dear friendly country over the years. In 2021, the two states signed a 25-year cooperation agreement, which, although there is a lack of specifics, generally refers to cooperation in the economic and security spheres, in particular, an investment worth approximately 400 billion US dollars by China. China has also become Iran’s most important economic partner, with the value of trade between them reaching 16 billion US dollars in 2022. Moreover, Iran received an invitation to join the Shenkha Cooperation Organization. Together with Russia, they conducted military tests in March 2023. As well as the visit of the Iranian president to China, where more than 20 cooperation agreements were signed between the two states (Yacoubian, 2023).
However, the cooperation of the two states was not satisfied merely with economic, military and bilateral diplomatic agreements, but also the issues related to the entire region. The most important of these issues is China’s intervention in the regulation of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. And what is the significance of this regulation?
Iran-Seutian Arabia Relations
It is not a secret that Iran and Saudi Arabia are rival states due to various reasons. First of all, they belong to the two competing wings of the Islamic religion, Sunni and Shia. They are competitors in other areas as well, such as the export of coal or becoming the largest regional power in the Middle East. It is also possible to mention the military positions, like this. In Lebanon, Iran supports the Shia party and the military group Hizballah, and Saudi Arabia supports its opposition groups, particularly the Sunnis. In Syria, Iran supports the current government, and Saudi Arabia supports opposition armed groups. In Yemen, Iran provides support to the armed group of the opposition Houthis, which is directly occupying the territory of Saudi Arabia.
Besides all these, there is also a direct reason for the non-existence of diplomatic ties between them. In 2016, a Shia cleric was executed in Saudi Arabia, and in response, Iranian citizens stormed the embassy and consulate of Saudi Arabia. As a result, the two states finally broke off their relations.
The absence of diplomatic ties continued until March 2023, when both sides of the Chinese intervention agreed to reestablish their relations and reopen embassies. But what was it that provided China with the role of a successful mediator? Thus, China is currently Iran’s largest, more precisely, 30% trade factor. Moreover, Ceuta Arabia is the largest coal import factor for China (Alterman, 2023). Therefore, its close cooperation and interests with both states put China in the best position to implement this agreement.
What are the implications of the current cooperation between China and Iran on the neighboring regions?
First of all, the settlement of relations with Saudi Arabia creates a relative peace process in one of the most unstable regions of the world, the Middle East, which brings Iran even more out of the isolation situation.
Strengthening Iran, both economically and militarily, also benefits Armenia, because it means that Armenia, being a landlocked country, will have a reliable and powerful neighboring state. And what advantages does this friendly relationship have?
Given the positive economic participation of China in the South Caucasus, Armenia is opening ways to develop its economy. It is possible to open the North-South road, but this time with more far-sighted steps. By adding the current Iran-Seutian Arabia connection to China’s economic investments, Armenia can become the center of a wide economic market. Russia is not limited by connecting Iran to Iran, but also has a direct way to cooperate with the Middle Eastern states. Moreover, this one gives the opportunity to establish diplomatic relations with Ceuta Arabi, becoming its partner, Armenia opens up wide fields of economic development.
- Վարդանյան, Ժ. (2023). Իրան-Սաուդյան Արաբիա հարաբերությունների կարգաւորումը, Անալիտիկոն
- Alterman, J.B. (2023). Why Did China Help Saudi Arabia and Iran Resume Diplomatic Ties?, in Center for Strategic and International Studies
- Yacoubian, A. (2023). Iran’s increasing Reliance on China, in United States Institute of Peace: The Iran Primer