By Fan Hongda

China is an ideal partner for Iran's pluralistic diplomacy

March 26, 2021 - 12:43

Since the Biden administration came to power, US-Iran relations have once again become a hot topic in the international community. When observing the current US-Iran relations, we must pay attention to its international environment.

The United States’ strategy of great power competition is conducive to the U.S.-Iranian relations, while contradictions among West Asian countries have a negative impact on this bilateral relationship. For Iran, pluralistic diplomacy is a necessary means to safeguard national interests. Iran-China cooperation can bring more development convenience to Iran.

The current U.S. policy towards Iran is contradictory

Two months have passed since President Joe Biden took office on January 21, 2021. After experiencing the Trump administration's destruction of European-American relations, the Biden administration and European powers hope to cooperate again to deal with what they consider to be their strategic rivals, China and Russia. To weaken its opponents, the United States will not easily accept that some key regional countries develop close relations with China or Russia.

Iran is one of such regional countries. therefore, although there are strong voices against Iran in the United States, Washington has regarded Iran as a pawn against other world powers, so the United States is likely to ease its attitude towards Iran. After all, the United States’ Iran policy serves its great power competition strategy.

On the other hand, competition among West Asian countries is not conducive to US-Iranian relations. U.S. allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia still hate Iran and have been pushing Washington to exert greater pressure on Iran. For example, just a few days ago, in mid-March, the United States and Israel held a high-level meeting to coordinate their Iran policy. The United States cannot completely ignore the demands of these allies, which will partially restrict the United States from easing its attitude towards Iran.

From the two perspectives of great power competition and regional competition in West Asia, the United States' attitude towards Iran is contradictory. That's why we often see that the U.S. policy towards Iran is not consistent. This is of course not conducive to the healthy development of US-Iranian relations.

Diplomatic pluralism is ideal for Iran

I know that many Iranian policymakers and scholars have noticed that the world's power structure is undergoing major change, and the east is rapidly rising. Although the United States still wants to control the entire world, it no longer has the strength and ability to do so. The multi-polarization of the world is already an objective existence.

Smart Iranians must have learned from the history of Iran since the 19th century that only when Iran establishes balanced and pluralistic diplomacy, will Iran better defend its own interests and gain more benefits. In a multi-polar world, Iran certainly needs pluralistic diplomacy.

In recent years, there have been many analytical articles about "look east" in Iran, and the international academic community is also studying Iran's "look east". If Iran’s “look east” more than a decade ago was just to respond to US sanctions, currently Iran’s “look east” should have a different meaning. It should become one of Iran's long-term strategies to safeguard its own interests.

Eastern countries have their own development philosophy. For example, compared with Western powers, China knows better that countries need to respect each other. As a major Asian country, Iran should have more optimistic expectations for the future of the east.

The positive significance of Iran-China cooperation
World power is shifting from the west to the east, and Iran’s "look east" strategy has responded appropriately to this change. Recently, the world media has widely reported the China-US meeting in Alaska on March 18-19. The performance of Chinese representatives at this meeting shocked the world, especially the United States. Yes, even in the face of a powerful United States, China also has enough self-confidence.

China like this really deserves more attention from Iran. The improvement of relations with China, which does not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, will definitely benefit Iran’s national interests. For example, deeper cooperation with China can enable Iran to obtain more Chinese investment and technology, more Chinese tourists with huge spending power. Of course, China also benefits from bilateral cooperation. Iranian friends know the meaning of Iran to China better than I do.

Yes, the current Iran-China relationship still faces some problems and challenges. But as we know, even the best friends can have problems. So don't lose confidence in Iran-China relations because of some existing problems. After all, the gains that Iran-China cooperation will bring to both sides are certain.

* Fan Hongda, Professor of the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, China

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