NOURNEWS - Relations between Iran and international powers have always been one of the most important issues in political and scientific forums. As an economic power, China is considered by many analysts to be one of the most influential countries in the future of international relations. Therefore, we spoke with Dr. Fariborz Arghavani, Professor of International Relations and Foreign Policy Analyst, about the relations of the People's Republic of China with Iran and other countries in the region.
How do you assess China's role in the region? How much and how is their conflict of interest with the Russians and Americans?
During the Cold War, the Chinese were more focused on their own domestic affairs and did not pay much attention to West Asia, but since the beginning of their economic growth, due to its consumer markets and energy resources, West Asia has become very important for its foreign policy and economic diplomacy, and for this reason, they are paying special attention to this region.
The Chinese relationship with West Asia has always had a systematic and cooperative model. The most important reason for this is that in addition to the Chinese need for West Asia and its markets; the West Asian countries, because they are largely authoritarian and quasi-authoritarian, China's approach is non-interference in domestic relations, regional governments have a positive view of having relations with China.
For this reason, the relations between these countries with China does not look contrary, unlike what is seen in the case of the European Union or the United States. Thus, China-West Asia relations have been influenced by a general pattern of cooperation.
In recent years, apart from other countries such as Iran, which had relatively good relations with China after the Islamic Revolution, even the Arab countries, especially the Persian Gulf countries, which in the past didn't have good relations with China due to Cold War relations; after the Cold War and especially after The events of 9/11, which were somewhat dubious about the intentions and pressures of Western governments on these countries, regarding human rights and the demands for democracy made by the West, turned to the Eastern politics. In an east-facing approach, alongside South Korea and India, China is central to West Asia.
Great powers usually compete with each other in regional spheres. These competitions may sometimes be associated with conflict or cooperation, depending on the type of competition and the area of competition. China is not in conflict with regard to the current situation in the West Asian region.
This is because China's priority is to establish economic relations in the region, while Russians on the other hand, it priority in the region is security. The Russians has the view of a Cold War in the part of the West Asia. That is, they pursue a sphere of influence through which they can gain points from the United States in more important areas.
The focus of the Russians is mainly on the Americans and they are less sensitive to China. In contrast, because Russia does not have as many economic interests in the region as China is pursuing, the Chinese are not sensitive to Russia's presence and largely recognize it. However, it must be borne in mind that in any case these are great powers. Over time, shifting priorities in China's foreign policy and shifting from an economic power to a multidimensional power will create a conflict of interest in the future.
What do you think about China's conflict of interest with the United States in the region?
But the conflict between Beijing and Washington is far greater than the conflict with Russia. This is because, first, the role of the United States in the region is a balancing and intervening role. Americans play an active role in the region. In addition to its efforts to balance West Asia, the United States has an economic outlook that runs counter to Chinese interests. Unlike Russia, the United States, as a systemic stabilizing power, is definitely monitoring China's activities more closely.
Ever since analysts identified China as a potential replacement for the United States, the United States has become more sensitive to China's actions. We see the height of this sensitivity during the Trump era, when it was said that the Chinese in West Asia enjoy a kind of free ride! This meant that security was provided by the United States but its economic benefits were taken away from China. They specifically referred to the Persian Gulf region.
However, these issues create a conflict of interest between China and the United States. This conflict has not reached the stage of serious conflict. The reason for this is that the Chinese have not yet expressed their foreign policy priorities from the economic sphere to the political sphere and then to the security sphere. All of this has led to a kind of Cold War-controlled confrontation in the region between the two countries.
This does not mean that the Chinese are indifferent. Where China feels its absence could jeopardize their long-term interests. A clear example of this was the case of Syria, where China repeatedly used its veto power in the Security Council to overturn resolutions passed by the United States and European countries condemning Syria or authorizing military intervention in Syria. This shows that they also have a view to the long-term political and security interests in the region.
In general, what are the goals of China in the West Asian region?
Certainly China's most important target is the economy. China pursues two economic priorities in the region. The first is to ensure energy security, which West Asia is very important to the Chinese because of its important place in the world's energy reserves and production, and the high quality of its resources.
Although the Chinese are able to supply some of their own energy from areas such as sub-Saharan Africa or elsewhere, nowhere else, like in West Asia, does it guarantee both energy quality and ease of transmission. Of course, China also buys energy from Russia, but China and Russia have never been serious partners.
Another point is the large consumer markets in West Asia. This region is one of the most important markets for China both due to its high population and cultural reasons. In addition, China has sought to capture a share of the region's arms market in recent years. A market that has been monopolized by Western countries since World War II.
Of course, the Chinese view of this market is a dual view. They are both considering selling military weapons to West Asian countries and trying to obtain the process of acquiring these weapons and reverse engineering through West Asian countries, especially in the Persian Gulf countries and the Zionist regime, which are in fact the main customers of Western weapons.
Another point about the importance of West Asia in the last decade is the placement of West Asia at the core of the One Belt Road project. In this project, West Asia has a transitional position and is important in terms of providing energy resources and consumer markets.
However, it should be added that the first priority of the Chinese in foreign policy is the East and Southeast Asia, but West Asia is very important region in the Chinese view compared to regions such as Latin America, the European Union, Africa, etc.
Basically, can it be said that China seeks a new order and balance of power in the West Asian region based on its own interests?
If you look at the priorities that have been mentioned, the best situation in West Asia is a systemic balance of power. In fact, in the last thirty years, the balance of power system has been the best in West Asia for China, given that the balance was struck through US intervention. This is because, firstly, because of the conflicting dualities of West Asia, for example between Iran and Saudi Arabia or Iran and Israel, China has provided an opportunity in the region to secure economic benefits.
At the same time, the Americans were the intervening power in the balance of power system, and by providing security spending in West Asia, they prevented China from interfering in many issues.
In major crises, the Chinese have tried to take a dual diplomatic stance, and wherever they feel the Americans have jeopardized their long-term interests, they have used their own institutional tools. West Asia seems to be favored by the Chinese in the balance of power in the Middle East.
In the recent years, given the generality of US policy, China does not seem too reluctant to involve with the United States for further policy in the region. Because it seems that the more the United States intervenes in West Asia, the less room it has to turn its policy towards China, or in other words, to implement a policy of containment of China.
There are common and accessible interests for Iran and China. The history of foreign relations between the two countries shows the same. The Chinese were one of the few countries that had good relations with Iran both during the Pahlavi era, especially in the 1970s, and were able to cooperate with Iran in the post-revolutionary years. One of the most important reasons for Iran's stance against the West, on the one hand, and the Iranians' view on China, on the other.
This means that the Chinese do not seek to intervene and pursue their economic interests with any system while cooperating.
What is your analysis of Iran-China relations? Are there common and accessible benefits?
Iran and China have both economic interests and political and security interests. However, the views are different. Iran views on China is a kind of political and an ally against the West and rebuilding international order, and expects China to be more transformative in this regard. While the Chinese have a similar view on Iran, their first priority is the economy and therefore do not take radical approaches from the West.
The Chinese, like Iran, are critical of the international system and the existing order, but believe that the order is currently working economically and that its political and security equations need to be reformed over time and in line with China's interests.
For this reason, China is in some ways are critical of Iran's approach. This is one of the reasons why China opposes Iran's membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or sometimes does not cooperate with Iran in the UN Security Council. They believe that Iran's position should be more controlled, more managed and more peaceful.
The important point in Iran-China relations is that, in any case, the logic of bilateral relations in the international system is based on national interests and rationality.
Historical experience has also shown that establishing one-sided relations with great powers will not bring good results. That is, creating a one-way relationship will lead to more dependence.
If Iran's relations with the People's Republic of China does go in the direction that China comes to the general understanding that Iran has come to China simply out of inevitability and lack of other options and only to escape Western pressure, it will lead to China gaining concessions in its favor it will not be in the Iran's interests.
But if this development of relations is balanced and Iran can create a balance between the West and the East and show the East, whether Russia, India or China, that Iran's relations with them are based on pragmatism and not a relation resulting from escaping Western pressures. On the other hand, if they realize that Iran can cooperate with others, they will definitely make more efforts to develop relations with Iran. Because they know that Iran's complete move to the West will deprive them of Iran's benefits.
Therefore, it is necessary to have an intelligence in Iran's foreign policy to regulate relations with countries such as China in such a way that the other parties do not feel that this is an inevitable relationship. This requires a balance between East and West and requires a great deal of diplomatic skill. Otherwise, major problems will arise for Iran's foreign policy in the future.