Iran and China
John S. Park and Cameron Glenn
- Iran is a linchpin in China’s regional energy security strategy. Iran has a strategic commodity essential to China’s primary goal — sustainable economic development. The more China grows, the less it acts like a responsible stakeholder due to its energy needs.
- Iran has focused on rebuilding its refinery capabilities, hedging against U.S.-led sanctions, and advancing its nuclear energy capabilities. China plays an important role as a major commercial and political partner.
- An unintended consequence of U.S.-led sanctions is more opportunity for Iran and China to cooperate. For China, fewer European and Asian investors means less competition for its companies in Iran and more access to Iranian energy. For Iran, China provides a coping mechanism amid international efforts to squeeze Tehran.
- China participated in nuclear talks with Iran along with Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States. A final deal was reached in 2015, which included sanctions relief for Iran. If implemented, it could have a positive impact on Beijing’s energy security and economic ambitions in the Middle East.
- Speaker of the Iranian Islamic parliament Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (June 1985)
- President Ali Khamenei (May 1989)
- Speaker Mehdi Karroubi (December 1991)
- President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (September 1992)
- First Vice-President Hassan Habibi (August 1994)
- President Mohammad Khatami (June 2000)
- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (June 2006)
- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (September 2008, June 2012)
- Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki (September 2008)
- First Vice President Parviz Davoodi (October 2008)
- First Vice President Mohammed Reza Rahimi (October 2009)
- Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali Fathollahi (December 2010)
- Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi (May 2011)
- Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian (January 2013)
- Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (May, October 2014)
- President Hassan Rouhani (May 2014)
- Chairman of the National People’s Congress Wan Li (May 1990)
- Premier Li Peng (July 1991)
- President Yang Shangkun (October 1991)
- Chairman of the National People’s Congress Qiao Shi (November 1996)
- State Councilor Wu Yi (March 2002)
- President Jiang Zemin (April 2002)
- Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (November 2004)
- Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (November 2007)
- Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun (April 2008, August 2012)
- Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin (November 2010)
- Vice Foreign Minister Zhai Jun (December 2011)
- Foreign Minister Wang Yi (February 2015)
- President Xi Jinping (January 2016)
- Beijing’s growing energy needs are likely to only deepen Iran-China relations for the foreseeable future. China’s oil demand has increased by an average of 5.7 percent annually between 2001 and 2014, and is expected to increase by 2.6 percentper year through 2020.
- China will likely remain a key investor in Iranian oil and gas infrastructure, as Beijing and Tehran intend to expand economic cooperation – especially after the nuclear deal is implemented.
This chapter was originally published in 2010. Cameron Glenn, a senior program assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace, contributed to an update of this chapter in 2015.
Photo credits: Rouhani and Xi Jinping via President.ir, Persian Gulf by Stevertigo at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons; Uighur mosque by Colegota via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 2.5]
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