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China-Iran Strategic Partnership & its Implications on Regional and Global Alliances

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On July 11, 2020, the New York Times published for the first time the news of the 25-year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement between China and Iran. According to reports, the agreement covers 100 different projects between the two countries, especially in the economic and political spheres. The preamble to the agreement states, “The two ancient Asian cultures (Iran and China) share a common vision in the fields of trade, economy, politics, culture, and security, as two partners with multiple mutual and multilateral interests will consider a strategic partnership with each other.”

It is important to note that although its full details have not yet come to light, it was laid during the 2016 visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Iran. Before examining the implications of this agreement, it is important to review its key points.

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First, the deal is worth about $400 Billion. Of this, $270 billion is expected to be spent by China on Iran’s energy sector, while $120 billion is expected to be spent on industry and transportation.

Second, the agreement addresses Iran’s economic problems, which it faced in the form of sanctions following the US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018. The most important of which is the rise in unemployment.

Third, Iran will supply oil to China at a special discount for 25 years (which is a long time), which will meet China’s energy needs.

Fourth, under the same plan, China is likely to introduce a new currency, the ERMB, to counter the US dollar’s international economic monopoly.

Fifth, the agreement is not limited to China and Iran but is an important step towards Asian unity. Because it is also hinting at meeting important commercial ports (such as Chabahar) through the Belt and Road project under CPEC. Which means Asian countries will be able to take full advantage of it in the years to come.

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The United States and European countries are concerned about the agreement and see it as a threat in the future. This is mainly due to the Asian nature of the agreement, China’s growing influence in the region, and the weakening grip of the US monopoly. However, the United States itself, due to its persistent stubbornness and non-cooperation, has attracted China and Iran to such an alliance.

In May 2018, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and imposed international sanctions on Iran. Not only did it contradict several detailed reports from the IAEA, but it also contradicted the intentions of the European countries involved in the nuclear deal. Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif has consistently drawn attention to this injustice at various international gatherings. He repeatedly called on Germany, Britain, and France, to play a role in the 2015 nuclear deal. Despite all these efforts, the situation for Iran became increasingly difficult and over the past three years, US aggression has continued in various forms. One of the highlights was the assassination of Iranian General Soleimani in Iraq in 2019 at the hands of the United States.

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Under these circumstances, the only way for Iran was to include a force that would ensure security in the region as well as be able to counter US monopolies and play a key role in getting Iran out of economic trouble. All of these goals could only be achieved in partnership with Iran’s China.

It is important to note that the effects of this agreement will not be limited to these two countries. First, it will put Iran in the Middle East as a balanced force against the Saudi monopoly. Until now, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been using their influence in the region for US interests, but now they seem to be competing with Iran, especially Turkey, in which countries like Pakistan and Malaysia seem to be part of the alliance.

In the times to come, as it has become clear in the aftermath of this global epidemic, China is an emerging power, while the United States is declining due to mismanagement in its internal and external affairs. Under these circumstances, it is a rare opportunity for other Asian countries, including Pakistan, and others such as Iran, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Nepal, to break the stalemate and become a full-fledged ally in the region’s emerging alliance for economic interests.

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