January 26, 2015
Immediately prior to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s four-day visit to Europe, another equally historic trip concluded when Xi Jinping became the first Chinese president to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran since 2002. An article in The Diplomat on Monday detailed that trip, which was preceded by a visit to Saudi Arabia, as well as some of its outcomes.
Just as is anticipated of Rouhani’s visits to Italy and France, the Chinese visit to Tehran focused on trade deals in the wake of the lifting of US-led sanctions. But President Xi’s discussions with the Iranian leadership reportedly also touched upon political issues to such an extent that the two countries were able to announce the formulation of a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” In part, this entails an arrangement for annual visits between the foreign ministers of China and Iran, as Beijing seeks long-term benefits from the Iranian oil economy and Tehran seeks strong Eastern backers.
The Diplomat indicates that the Iranians specifically view their burgeoning relationship with Beijing as a means of challenging the established partnership between the US and Iran’s main regional rival, Saudi Arabia. This perceived potential has given Xi incentive to privilege his visit to Iran, even though Beijing is ostensibly trying to balance its interests in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
In light of Tehran’s eagerness, the visit reportedly resulted in the conclusion of 17 trade agreements, aimed at building the economic exchanges between the two countries to a value of 600 billion dollars over the next 10 years.
These developments once again focus attention upon some international analysts’ longstanding concerns about the possible development of an “Eastern bloc” that could present a serious challenge to Western global interests and even the international oil market’s current dependence upon US currency. On Monday, Quadrangle further highlighted this threat by pointing out that at the same time China depends upon Iranian oil for its economic interests, Russia depends upon Iran for the sake of its new approach to national security. That approach specifically entails greater confrontation with the West, as evidenced by contrary Russian and US positions on the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Iran’s economic agreements with China and its security collaborations with Russia raise questions about Western efforts to normalize relations with Iran. On Monday, an editorial in the Los Angeles Times emphasized that the Iranian regime has been resistant to these efforts and has maintained a strong trend of anti-Western propaganda. Indeed, SB News reported that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had welcomed the Chinese visit by saying that Tehran never trusted the West and was prepared to reward China for the help that they had offered while sanctions were still in effect.-INS