China Beefs Up Alliance With Iran Amid Spy Concerns

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi and Chinese president Xi Jinping / Reuters
February 14, 2023

China is strengthening its diplomatic relationship with Iran and plans to integrate the two nations' economies with a 25-year cooperation program.

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi landed in Beijing on Tuesday, marking the first state visit by an Iranian president to China in two decades. Raisi met with Chinese president Xi Jinping, who said during public remarks that the Communist regime "will unswervingly maintain its friendship and cooperation with Iran and advance China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership."

The two rogue nations are poised to finalize a series of bilateral cooperation agreements during Raisi's trip that will see Tehran and Beijing integrate their economies to historic levels.

The meetings come amid efforts by both regimes to offset U.S. influence across the globe and interfere in U.S. national security operations. China's spy apparatus has dominated the headlines after one of its spy balloons traversed the continental United States before being shot down by the Biden administration. Three other unidentified flying objects were shot down across the United States and Canada over the weekend. The closer relationship is raising concerns among experts who say the agreement is bad news for Washington. Iran has an interest in this technology and could press its allies in the Communist regime to help it construct similar types of equipment. The increased economic ties between the countries could also help both regimes skirt U.S. sanctions.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, said these agreements "will be one of the toughest for Washington to offset in the next decade, as both rogues tighten economic and security ties."

"Tightening ties between Beijing and Tehran is more proof that the Biden administration cannot afford to treat the China and Iran challenge as regional or quarantined," according to Taleblu, adding that China "remains Iran's economic lifeline, and has been the largest illicit and licit importer of Iranian crude oil in the past decade."

Iranian officials say the country's exports to China topped $12 billion during the last 10 months and that China exported around $12.3 billion of goods into Iran.

The Chinese leader celebrated the alliance with Iran in comments during a joint appearance with Raisi. The Chinese Communist Party "supports Iran in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and national dignity … and in resisting unilateralism and hegemonism," Xi said in comments carried by Iran's state-controlled press. "In the face of the current complex changes in the world, times, and history, China and Iran have supported each other and worked together in solidarity and cooperation."

The Iranian and Chinese leaders signed at least 20 documents and agreements outlining expanding economic cooperation, including in the sectors of communication and information technology, international trade, health care, and intellectual property, according to Iranian media.

Iran's foreign ministry described the visit as an "important development in bilateral relations between Iran and China" and said it was conducted at the CCP's request. The latest economic agreements are "a road map for cooperation between the two countries," the foreign ministry added.