China and Iran in the era after sanctions end

While Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei, blamed the United States for its reluctance to abandon the sanctions, China-Iran relations have been strengthened since the start of expiry the sanctions.

The Chinese interest for a close relation with Iran is primarily because Iran’s oil and gas. In addition, this close relation would give China access to West Asia, through a fast train out of Xinjiang province located in northwest China to Iran via Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Today, the daily oil consumption in China is estimated to five million barrels per day and is expected to reach thirteen million barrels per day by 2035. Iran ranks as the fourth country in the world oil reserves, a fact that makes the energy partnership between the two sides obvious. Iran’s geographical position, between the Gulf and the Caspian Sea, two major areas of China’s growth strategy and a big part of “one belt, one road” innovation declared in 2013 by the president of China Xi Jinping. The fact that the Gulf States (Qatar, UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain) and Saudi Arabia tend traditionally to the United States, and the fact that Iran is not so since the Islamic revolution in 1979, make Iran more open to Chinese and other effects. The Chinese commitment to Iran was demonstrated most clearly during the visit of China’s president in January this year, which was the first visit by a head of state after the lifting the sanctions.

The need to sell their oil in order to generate revenues and other similar aspects is not the only motives of Iranians strategies of having close relations with China. China’s ability in the field of nuclear energy is driving significant additional and brings closer bilateral ties since the end of sanctions. Many in the international community argue that Iran alone cannot develop a civil nuclear project. More than that: They remind that China was the first who had volunteered to cooperate with Iran on this issue and the first one to be the supplier of the components to Iran. Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, announced earlier this year that Iran intends to accept help from China in order to build two civilian nuclear reactors. Head of the Atomic Energy Authority of China Xu Dazhe confirmed this and added that there are additional projects in the nuclear field discussed between the sides.

China is not alone in the international arena who want to enjoy the removal of sanctions on Iran. Japan looks away Iran’s nuclear investments and Russia have already announced the construction of the Bushehr nuclear reactor and other cooperation agreements. It seems, that despite the absence of Western investors, the Iranian economy benefited from diverse investment growth, as the big winner is China, followed by Russia and even Japan.



About the Author
Researcher and PhD student at the Middle Eastern studies department, Bar-Ilan University.
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