Briefly: On Tuesday (Valentine’s Day no less), Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping. They pledged to deepen their ties after a period of stagnation, and discussed issues like investment, oil, and the Iran nuclear deal.
China and Iran have a nuanced friendship. On the one hand, presenting a united front and pushing back against the US encourages a more multipolar world order (aka less US-dominant), while providing both countries with material advantages (China is Iran’s biggest oil client).
On the other hand, China has been cosying up to Saudi Arabia (Iran’s main regional rival) and that has put Iran on edge. Despite Beijing’s pledges to work on their ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’, Tehran hasn’t exactly become a hub for Chinese investment. Raisi even bemoaned bilateral relations having “seriously fallen behind”.
President Xi is still talking a big game: “No matter how the international and regional situation changes, China will unswervingly develop friendly co-operation with Iran”.
Intrigue’s take: Iran needs friends and customers, possibly one and the same, and it needs them urgently. Unfortunately for Iranians, the country’s economic outlook is weaker than KFC’s commitment to nutrition. And sanctions relief is nowhere on the horizon. Add to the mix the growing prospect of a China-Saudi friendship and you’ll understand why Raisi jumped on the first plane to Beijing.
Also worth noting:
- Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein has described present Iran-Saudi ties as “more positive compared to the past”.
- Iranian exports of crude oil have skyrocketed in recent months and are expected to reach 200,000 barrels per day this year.