On March 26, 2021, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Teheran after his diplomatic tour in the Middle East to sign a cooperation agreement between China and Iran. After 5 years of negotiations, the two countries have managed to enter a 25-year strategic partnership concerning trade, politics, culture, and security. China and Iran both share a confrontational relationship with the United States.
China has been a major commercial partner of Iran, and client to Iranian oil companies, even before former US President Trump withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal and restored unilateral sanctions in 2018. Beijing has often spoken out against US sanctions on Iran, which is publicly appreciated by President Hassan Rouhani. The agreement is said to have been proposed when President Xi Jinping visited Teheran in 2016, where Xi and Rohani discussed mutual interests in key sectors such as transportation, ports, energy, industry, and services. Through this pact, the relationship between China and Iran has been consolidated and made “permanent and strategic,” as stated by Minister Wang.
Although not many details have been disclosed to the public, the agreement will surely bring advantages to both parties. The pact will help guarantee China’s energy security, since Teheran is now committed to permanently supplying Beijing with oil and gas at competitive prices. On the other hand, China calls for heavy investments, which have been detailed to $400 billion, in key sectors such as energy and infrastructure, in addition to military cooperation. Beijing has also promised to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Iran, the Middle Eastern country worst affected by the pandemic.
Proponents of the deal say that Teheran will benefit from turning east, as hostilities coming from the US and the West increase, and that the agreement could finally ease Iran’s international isolation. US President Joe Biden has in fact offered to resume negotiations on the 2015 nuclear accord but has not yet taken action to lift the harsh economic measures that still remain in place against Iran. “Under the new administration, the Americans want to reconsider their policy and return to the nuclear accord, and China welcomes their move,” Minister Wang said. In fact, China has often supported resolving the nuclear dispute between Iran and the United States, saying that maintaining the nuclear deal would mean preserving multilateralism.