China and Iran signed a deal in March 2021 to promote their strategic partnership. The agreement has been put forward for 25 years and reportedly amounts to USD 400 billion. This has led to speculations within the epistemic community that sees it as a major hurdle for the US-Iran negotiations with respect to the nuclear deal.
The Chinese newspaper South China Morning Post hushed the rumours of this deal being a game changer and has called it a mere follow up of China’s ambitions to promote its Belt and Road Initiative. It also stated that China in the past signed deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE and this should not be blown out of proportion. In an article, the South China Morning Post applauded the Chinese success in balancing the relationship with UAE and Iran by signing separate deals with the two despite their hostile relations with each other.
The agreement puts two specific points in focus- one, it serves as a source of comfort for Iran in the midst of the intense sanctions. The attempts to start the negotiation process between the United States and Iran has not achieved much success. In the absence of a proper worded document and the potential of iridescence will lead to insecurity among the other states in gauging the actual intent of the deal.
Second, it appears in total violation of the American sanctions put in place to force Iran into giving in for a productive round of negotiations. This proves Chinese disregard for any western ideas of international norms. Historically, China has displayed oblivion to the American notion of international law and this too lines up.
Iran is important for China due to its geographical placement and this long term partnership will be a big achievement in the Chinese strive for the economic corridor.
RUSI discussed how this event was an eye opener for US and China about the dis-interest that other states have in their internal rift. Countries around the world were taking decisions based on self interest and China was benefitting from that. It was clear that “values were second to interests”. This is also another jolt to the weak international norms.
The agreement between the two countries is vague worded and covers areas like energy, banking, infrastructure, industrial sectors, cooperation in intelligence, counter terrorism and Chinese investment in Iranian ports. The timing of the agreement increases un intensity of suspicion about the Chinese intentions. China has continued its de-tours from the international obligations in Middle East, Indo Pacific and South Asia. This is no different.