Iran-China Strategic Partnership Wider Than Economy, Say Officials
Gholamreza Ansari, Economic Diplomacy Deputy of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, has said that the “final comprehensive document” of the 25-year Iran-China cooperation pact will go far beyond the economy.
Speaking to Mehr News Agency on Sunday [November 15], Ansari said the plan being negotiated by the two countries was different from a draft leaked to the press. “The areas of cooperation in that document were economic but the final document will also include [cooperation between] various judiciary and parliamentary bodies of the two countries,” he said. Ansari added that China had made a “positive response” to amendments proposed by Iran during the visit to Beijing in early October by Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister.
Ansari said the Chinese yuan had replaced the dollar in Iran-China trade, including oil. “China is still one of the major buyers of Iranian oil,” he told Mehr. “Russia, an oil producer itself, buys the Iranian oil and exports it [to China].”
The Chinese side has not officially acknowledged the 25-year deal. But in a virtual press conference on Monday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described the proposed pact as a strategic roadmap that would not be affected by the United States presidential election.
“China has definitely a special place,” Khatibzadeh said. “The United States, even if it corrects wrong [during a Joe Biden presidency], will have a long way to go to be accepted as a responsible member [of the world community]. The wall of distrust toward the US has become higher.”
A lot of pronouncements by Iranian officials about an impending strategic pact with China led to strong reactions from government critics who charged that Iran’s leaders were willing “to sell out” the country to China. Several principlists, including former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, criticized the idea, with one lawmaker alleging that the government wanted to transfer control of Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf to Beijing. The exiled opposition figure, former Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, denounced “a despicable 25-year agreement with China to plunder Iran’s natural resources” and accept “a foreign army in our homeland.”
Tehran considers China and Russia as relatively reliable partners among world powers. With trade with the rest of the world hampered by stringent US sanctions imposed after Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Iran has trumpeting links with Beijing and Moscow, although both are constrained by their fears of US secondary sanctions.
Iran has denied reports that China has blocked Iranian assets of $20-$40 billion because of US sanctions, although Beijing has been generally observing US sanctions on Tehran. The Washington Post on November 15 cited ariel photographs obtained by United Against Nuclear Iran, an advocacy group that monitors Iran’s oil trade, depicting vessels engaged in clandestine ship-to-ship transfers of Iranian oil and liquid petroleum gas heading to China.