Center for Strategic Assessment and forecasts

Autonomous non-profit organization

Home / Politics and Geopolitics / / Articles
Tehran-Beijing: an ambitious lion and the stolen dragon
Material posted: Pankratenko Igor N.Publication date: 20-01-2016
China was and remains, in fact, the only country which pursued independent policy for Iran in the last decade. Considering, certainly, the international environment, but thus on a step without receding from a pragmatism inherent in Beijing. When it was demanded by interests of national economy – China simply ignored the West position in the Iranian question and the sanctions imposed against Tehran. Today, after signing of the final Agreement in Vienna, two countries had a real opportunity to become strategic partners. Whether it will be realized?

In the most complicated for Iran and its economy the period of the war of sanctions launched by the West, China has established an original record. When the turnover of Islamic republic with its basic partners was reduced, and with Russia in general has fallen to a historical minimum, the trade volume between Teheran and Beijing only accrued. 1997 - $12 billion dollars, on the threshold of «kalechashchih sanctions», in 2009 - $28 billion. On their peak in 2012 - $36 billion. In 2013 - 40 billion. And, following the results of last year, taking into account oil export - 47,5 billion dollars.

In a word, from 2009, in conditions toughening by Washington and EU sanktsionnogo a mode against Islamic republic, turnover growth has constituted almost 60 percent - more than convincingly proof of that for Beijing sanctions never were and will not be a deterrent in development of economic partnership with Teheran.

Avoiding loud statements, China used any possibility both for "washing out" of sanctions, and for careful, but effective pushing of other members of "six" to thought that the agreement under the nuclear program of Iran should be signed, and isolation policy of Teheran is counterproductive and the serious damage of regional safety causes. And, Beijing approached to belief of partners in a complex, flexibly combining economic decisions with demonstrative steps of military-political character.

For example, in 2009 Iran provided about 12 percent of the Chinese requirements for oil import, taking the third place in the list of importers - after Angola and Saudi Arabia. Without entering direct confrontation with resolutions of the UN Security Council and the unilateral sanctions entered by the USA and the European Union, Beijing in 2010-2012 has lowered volumes of bought oil. But as soon as in November, 2013, following the results of negotiations in Geneva, the Antiiranian sanctions have been weakened - China there and then has started to increase again import volumes, only for first six months 2014 having increased volumes of purchases at Iran by 48 percent.

As to steps of military-political character it is necessary to remind that in 2010 when Washington and its allies very much pushed idea about «compulsion of Teheran to negotiations» by creation round it a mode of the international isolation - hinting thus at possible military measures - the squadron of fighters of the Chinese Air Forces has in a pointed manner arrived with «friendship visit» on air base in Iran. And in 2014 a series of the irano-Chinese contacts at level of heads of military departments has taken place. The Chinese and Iranian Ministers of Defence have conducted substantial dialogue concerning cooperation in sphere of safety and partnership prospects. The parties have exchanged representative military delegations, and under "curtain" - the ships of the Chinese navy fleet have paid visit to Bandar-Abbas.

Uneasy nuances of the irano-Chinese partnership

But it would be extremely naive and dishonest to represent relations between Teheran and Beijing as equal road to shining tops of strategic partnership over which always the clear sky and brightly shines the sun of the irano-Chinese friendship. The history of relations between these states for last two decades includes both failures, and non-realised projects. There is no strategic sphere of cooperation between Teheran and Beijing which would not have personal «a skeleton in a case».

In the early nineties China and Iran have concluded a number of reports on cooperation in nuclear area. So, in 1993 the contract on participation of Beijing in completion of the Bushersky atomic power station and building of one more atomic power station by capacity 300 MVt in the southwest of Iran has been signed. Besides, in 1995 of the party have reached agreements that China will construct under Isfaganom factory on uranium enrichment. These arrangements have caused the extremely nervous reaction of Washington to which pressure then China has preferred to yield, and in 1999 the irano-Chinese cooperation in atomic engineering sphere has been curtailed.

Till certain time Beijing not only delivered ready patterns of arms in Islamic republic, but also has transferred a number of technologies for the Iranian military-industrial complex, concerning rocket technics, artillery systems and building of the fighting ships and boats. And start in September, 2008 by means of the Chinese rocket of the joint artificial companion of Earth Environment-1 became a result of cooperation of two countries in space sphere.

But the USA have managed to force to yield China and in the second time, in 2009 when the resolution of Board of governors of IAEA, condemning Teheran for concealment of the information on building of the second factory on enrichment of uranium near to a city of Godmothers and become by a pretext for entering of additional sanctions against Iran the UN Security Council has been accepted. However, for this purpose the American side had to resort to frank blackmail - at first Washington has made the decision on arms supplies to Taiwan, then in the White house with a pomp met the spiritual leader of Tibet the dalaj-llama.

Well and already after these demonstrative steps, for two weeks before official visit of US president Barack Obama to China which has taken place on November, 15-18th, 2009, to Beijing there have arrived emissaries of the American National Security council Denis Ross and Jeffrey Bader. Which have unambiguously let know that if China which has remained with the special position across Iran in strategic loneliness - I will remind, Russia has already accepted by then the American game rules under the nuclear file of Teheran - will disagree with necessity of toughening of a position across Iran, will not curtail program VTS and will put a veto for the Antiiranian resolution of UNSF «unfriendly steps» the USA concerning Beijing will accept much bigger scale.

Having weighed in that situation all pro's and con's, the Chinese management has made decision not to enter in the open conflict to Americans and their allies in Europe. But thus - to use all possible "openings" in sanktsionnom a mode for continuation of mutually advantageous cooperation with Iran. That, as dynamics of a turnover shows, and has been made. But the deposit remained with the Iranian party.

Separate conversation is deserved periodically arising between Teheran and Beijing by a disagreements in economic sphere - from joint projects on oil and gas, to problems with the Chinese investments into the Iranian economy and a policy of rigid protectionism of Teheran concerning presence of the Chinese goods in the country market. Protecting interests of the home producer, the management of Iran does not intend to pursue a policy of "open doors» for goods of mass consumption made in the Peoples Republic of China. That, certainly, causes frank irritation of the Chinese business and adds nedoponimanija in bilaterial relations.

Claims of Teheran

But also without an economic component at Teheran the irritation evasive, in its opinion, a position of Beijing on variety of questions, main of which - acknowledgement by China beyond Iran of the status of "the exclusive partner» over and over again breaks. On the ground that Iran takes of a consecutive Antiamerican position and, by country leaders calculations, should be automatically brought Beijing in a category of "a foreign policy priority» with corresponding preferences in economy ¸ to the politician and sphere of military-technical cooperation. Especially these moods at a part of the Iranian political elite have amplified now, after signing of "the Viennese pact». The Principal cause here as it is represented - misunderstanding in Teheran of main principles of that foreign policy which conducts China.

The economic levers which are not dependent on political sympathies, first of all are used by Beijing for advancement of the interests in region, for its registration in original «open joint stock company». Membership in which should make for the Chinese economy profit, instead of be a source of problems of that in a ball of local conflicts Beijing has openly taken somebody's part. And thanks to this line - today China implements the political and economic tasks in the same Africa, in Central Asia and in the Near East let and less "zrelishchno" but where as is more successful, than the USA, Russia or Iran.

That, I will repeat, causes the increasing misunderstanding in Teheran. That, for example, that China temporarily diversified sources of deliveries of power resources therefore Saudi Arabia - the main opponent of Iran in regional opposition - takes a place in a three of the basic exporters of oil to Heavenly Empire, and here Teheran in it has lost a place. Or that adhering to a firm position as regards legitimate rights of Palestinians should be satisfied, Beijing, nevertheless, became one of the main importers of the Israeli weapon. In addition, in 2013 import from China to Israel without diamonds has exceeded for the first time on volume import from the USA, and now Beijing acts as one of the main things the supplier of the goods and services to "a Zionist mode».

Expansion of cooperation of Beijing with Bagdad in development of southern oil fields of Iraq, bear in itself, according to Teheran «threat of easing of the Iranian influence in the country». The Iranian management, observing of activity of Beijing, seriously is afraid that soon he should repeat after Americans the words told by Robert Kaplan in «Wall Street Journal»: «We have released from Iraq that the Chinese firms could extract free there oil».

Causes vigilance of Teheran and activity of China in the Pakistan Beluchistan which is one of key knots of "new economic space of the Silk way». Beijing does not hide that considers Pakistan in general and this province in particular - as the future industrial base. And in Teheran ask a question - whether there is dynamically developing Pakistan Beluchistan the reason of growth of separative moods in Beluchistan Iranian as comparable in the sizes with Chinese the Islamic republic cannot do investments into region.

And, in end, about one of the reasons of the Iranian discontent - the hard line of China concerning attempts of the Iranian religious organisations to be engaged in propagation Islamic is enough values in immediate proximity from the western borders of the Peoples Republic of China. It is necessary to remind that when the former president of Iran M.Hatami has offered Beijing the help of Shiit clergy in settlement of problems with Moslems of Sintszjana - the Chinese party politely, but has insistently advised not to lift never any more a theme.

Through thorns - to strategic partnership

Signing of the summary Agreement under the Iranian nuclear program in Vienna has been apprehended in Beijing as new possibility to strenghten strategic partnership with Teheran. As the Chinese party has put a maximum of efforts to happy end of thirteen-year negotiations.

The management of the Peoples Republic of China perfectly realises today key value of Iran in region, importance of high-grade and scale cooperation with it in realisation as grandiose project of "economic space of a new Silk way», and programs on provision of regional safety, joint opposition to the narcotraffic, extremism and that is actual both for Teheran, and for Beijing - to separatism.

Iran is considered by China and as the major element of safety power as, first, even taking into account a diversification of sources of import remains to one of the major suppliers of oil for the Chinese economy. Secondly, pipelines which in the long term can be stretched from Iran in the Peoples Republic of China, are less vulnerable for unfriendly steps of the third countries, than the present sea routes of Beijing passing through narrow gate Ormuzsky and strait of Malacca.

That is why and to «the Viennese pact», and after its signing officials of the Peoples Republic of China declared and declare readiness to help Teheran in the decision of two most important tasks of the Iranian economy - reception of technologies and investments. And, with an advancing of the schedule of removal of sanctions confirmed in the United Nations. Following the results of Vienna Beijing has already confirmed three essentially an important point of cooperation with Teheran. The first - readiness to invest creation of "an economic corridor» from Iran to Pakistan (including gas pipeline building). The second - to give for modernisation of the Iranian economy of means of the Asian bank of infrastructural investments. And, at last, the third - in case of the conclusion with Teheran agreements on its participation in creation of "economic space of a new Silk way», Beijing is ready to finish the next years volume of the investments into economy of Iran to 52 billion dollars.

Well and, certainly, China intends to expand cooperation in transport sphere, that is - to continue full-scale realisation signed with Iran in 2003 «the Report on interaction in transport sphere». Which in itself is more than the serious project including and the further development of a highway "Teheran-north", and building of undergrounds in Isfagane, Meshed and Tabriz. But also - creation Chinese China National Heavy Truck Corporation together with Iran Khodro Diesel in Iran of factories on assemblage of lorries and minibuses, with their subsequent realisation in the markets of the Near East and in Central Asia.


Iran and China - peregovorshchiki the extremely difficult. To everything, in their relations there are enough points at issue and mutual nedoponimanija. From, whether they will manage to overcome them, also in many respects depends, whether there is a reality a strategic partnership of an ambitious lion "and" a stolen dragon ». The partnership, capable to generate a new political and economic reality of the East, from Turkey and Iraq to Pakistan, from Central Asia to Sintszjana.

Igor Pankratenko

Source: <>

Tags: Iran , assessment , China

RELATED MATERIALS: Politics and Geopolitics