National Security

Iran Wants ‘Strategic Partnership’ with China

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani / Getty Images

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani recently called for a "strategic partnership" with the similarly anti-American regime in China, the Economist reported Saturday.

Rouhani remarked October 1 that Tehran and Beijing had taken a "major step" forward in its 25-year partnership. The two countries have deepened security, technological, and economic ties in recent months, though many details of a potential breakthrough agreement remain unclear.

A partnership with China gives Iran an opportunity to revive its shattered export regime. Foreign investment in Iran's oil trade has ground to a halt, while the Iranian currency has hit a historic low in light of American sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic. Tehran, therefore, sees China as a vital partner.

The countries have already made some overtures. Tehran and Beijing share an abiding interest in challenging an American-led world order. Iranian foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif arrived in China Friday to deepen bilateral ties, citing anti-American sentiment as a major building block in the countries' relationship.

Iran and China "share views on important spheres such as the fight against the U.S. unilateralism and interference in the internal affairs of countries," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Iran engaged in a campaign of executions this summer to flatten any political opposition to its Islamist regime, while China regularly places religious and ethnic minorities in concentration camps and has consolidated power in formerly democratic Hong Kong.

China has used its membership in multilateral organizations to help Iran and oppose American interests. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, the country has lobbied against western sanctions on Iran. As a member of the U.N. Human Rights Council, it has taken aim at Israel, an Iranian enemy.

While China continues to trade with historic rivals of Iran, some experts warn that China will continue peripheral investment in Iran.

Beijing will "build a power station or a highway" but likely will not send more heavy-handed forms of aid, argued one diplomat.