Communist China is forging a 25-year strategic partnership with the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is an economic and security alliance between two America-hating dictatorships. As a result, China’s footprint in Iran will increase in proportion to its expected $400 billion of investment in Iran’s energy, petrochemical, transport, and manufacturing infrastructure and purchase of oil at a discounted price over the next 25 years. Beijing’s ongoing infrastructure work includes the China National Nuclear Corporation’s redesign of an Iranian heavy water nuclear reactor at Arak.
According to the New York Times, which has had access to the proposed agreement between the two countries, the agreement “calls for joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing.” China would also be helping to construct port facilities, including one just outside of the Strait of Hormuz, the strategically important entrance to the Persian Gulf.
China was already Iran’s largest trading partner and oil client in 2019, although Iran-China trade fell by over 34 percent to $23 billion compared to 2018. The decline was in part the result of the impact of the Trump administration’s crippling sanctions imposed on the Iranian regime and firms doing business with the regime. Nevertheless, while Chinese companies are continuing to keep a wary eye on the impact of U.S. sanctions on their overall business, the Chinese government appears willing to risk a short-term economic hit to its state-run companies in order to reap the geopolitical benefits of gaining greater influence in the Middle East region through an expanded relationship with Iran. This relationship promises to bring Iran more firmly into China’s Belt and Road Initiative orbit. China is delivering yet another message to the United States that China will use its increasing economic power to challenge U.S. ascendancy in defining the rules of international relations and multilateralism.
Alex Vatanka, an Iran analyst at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, was quoted as saying during a Voice of America Persian interview that “Iran is potentially a lucrative market for China, which wants to keep its stranglehold on that market and keep out rivals.” Vatanka added that “China also does not want to see the Islamic republic fall because of American pressure, an outcome the Chinese would read as a net loss for themselves, geopolitically.”
The Iranian regime is desperate for China’s lifeline as it tries to stay afloat amidst a tanking economy, the coronavirus, domestic unrest and a slew of explosions and fires affecting its infrastructure facilities. China is very adept in taking advantage of other countries’ economic plight. Iran could face the same fate as Asian and African countries who took on heavy indebtedness to Chinese entities and had to cede control of vital port facilities to China when they were unable to pay back their debts. While some hardliners in Iran oppose increasing the Iranian regime’s dependence on China or on any outside country, the proposed agreement with China has the support of the regime’s leadership including Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
China is also helping Iran diplomatically on the world stage. It makes a point of manipulating appeals to international law and multilateralism to defend the Iranian regime “against unilateralism and bullying,” as China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi put it during a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Beijing on December 31, 2019. Wang Yi said that “the unilateral withdrawal by the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA], giving up on its international commitments and [attempts] to exert maximum pressure on Iran are the sources of the current tension arising over the Iranian nuclear issue.” He added that “China will firmly defend international justice and fairness, and oppose any unilateralism and bullying behaviour to push for a political and diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear issue.”
After the U.S. killing on January 3, 2020 of Qasem Soleimani, leader of the terrorist Quds force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, “The dangerous US military operation violates the basic norms of international relations and will aggravate regional tensions and turbulence. China opposes the use of force in international relations. There is no way out for military means, nor for extreme pressure.” China’s unilateral militarization of the South China Sea doesn’t count as the use of force or extreme pressure in international relations as far as the Communist Chinese regime is concerned.
China vowed during a UN Security Council meeting on June 30, 2020 to join Russia in opposing U.S. efforts to extend the UN arms embargo against the Iranian regime. “China opposes the U.S. push for extending the arms embargo on Iran,” said Zhang Jun, China’s UN ambassador. China exercised its veto alongside Russia. In late December 2019, the navies of Iran, China and Russia had conducted a joint maritime exercise in the Gulf of Oman and the northern Indian Ocean.
China’s multi-pronged economic-diplomatic-military offensive, as exemplified in its expanding relationship with Iran, is all part of China’s cynical strategy to position itself as the alternative to the United States’ global leadership. China casts the United States as a power-hungry villain seeking to impose neo-colonialist control over the developing world, while portraying itself as a responsible multilateralist benevolently providing developmental assistance around the world and defending “victims” of U.S. “aggression.” China’s strategy is gaining traction.
Last year, the Democrat presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden shrugged off China’s behavior as nothing to worry about. “I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks” Biden said. “They’re not competition for us.” Biden may just be plain naïve or he might be covering for China as payback for his son’s lucrative business with the state-owned Bank of China – or a bit of both. For whatever reason, Biden appears willing to turn a blind eye to the most critical geopolitical challenge to U.S. leadership of our time – the ambitions and growing capabilities of the Communist Chinese regime. Communist China is determined to bring the era of American global leadership to an end, leveraging its rising economic and military power and resulting enhanced diplomatic clout to achieve its ultimate goal. Biden’s indifference to the severity of this threat is reason enough to consider him unqualified to become the president of the United States.