Significant long-term perspective
China-Iran 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement will benefit both countries and the region
As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Iran, the two countries signed a 25-year blueprint to enhance bilateral comprehensive cooperation on March 27. Given its long-term outlook, the deal has drawn much attention from the international community and sparked negative perceptions in some countries, with some trying to distort the China-Iran relationship.
But the newly inked 25-year agreement does not target at any third party. The plan focuses on tapping the potential in political, strategic and economic cooperation between the two sides, charting the course for long-term cooperation. China and Iran have highly complementary economies, and there is great potential for mutually beneficial cooperation.
The Iranian economy, crippled by decades-long sanctions, especially the harsh new nuclear sanctions imposed by the United States over the past few years, is in dire need of additional investments in various sectors of the economy, infrastructure in particular. China, strong in infrastructure construction, manufacturing and trade, is promoting the construction of the Belt and Road, in which Iran occupies a special niche. The long-term cooperation agreement is therefore conducive to China's development, as well as Iran's development and economic revival.
China and Iran started discussing the cooperation plan as early as in 2016. The two countries pledged to start negotiations on a comprehensive cooperation plan during Chinese President Xi Jinping's official visit to Iran in January that year. Prior to that, in July 2015, Iran and the P5+1－the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US, plus Germany－concluded the nuclear deal, which initiated the lifting of sanctions on Iran. Under such circumstances, China and Iran reached a consensus on boosting cooperation to help Iran revive its crumbling economy and they started negotiations on a long-term cooperation plan.
Bilateral relations should be based on mutual respect and equality with mutual benefits and win-win results as the goal, so as to bring maximum benefits to the two people of the two countries. The China-Iran cooperation agreement is a stellar example of such friendly exchanges between countries.
In the face of the complicated situation in the Middle East, China has been upholding the principle of "openness, inclusiveness and mutually beneficial cooperation" in its relations with countries in the region. In addition to the 25-year cooperation agreement with Iran, China has reached a consensus with the Saudi Arabian Oil Company on energy cooperation for the next 50 years and has been carrying out high-level cooperation with Israel, displaying the ancient Chinese wisdom of "seeking harmony in diversity". It also shows that China is broad-minded enough to carry out exchanges with different countries, races and cultures.
Due to their different histories, cultures, ideas and national conditions, different countries display different behavior when dealing with other countries. Western countries including the US have taken a hawkish approach to forcefully interfere in Middle Eastern affairs. The Iraq War, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and sanctions on Iran and Syria are all evidence of Western interference in the Middle East, which has exacerbated regional conflicts and confrontations between Middle Eastern countries and caused great hardships and suffering for people in the region.
China has taken a completely different approach toward the Middle East affairs.
First, China has been mediating and promoting peace talks in the region and it appointed a special envoy to the Middle East. On March 30, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi concluded a week-long trip to nations in the Middle East. During the visit, China put forward five-point initiative for resolving conflicts in the region. In more specific terms, Wang made an offer of readiness to organize direct talks between Israel and Palestine and a security conference on the Persian Gulf. For these purposes, Beijing is ready to act as host.
Second, China is willing to help Middle East countries develop their economies through the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. Countries in the Middle East have participated in the Belt and Road construction and China has made hefty investments to help countries in the region build industrial parks, high speed railways, ports, bridges and livelihood projects, promoting economic growth and improving the livelihoods of people in the region. The newly inked China-Iran comprehensive 25-year cooperation agreement is such a grand construction and development cooperation plan.
On a higher level and with a wider perspective, the newly inked China-Iran cooperation agreement will produce multi-win results as it contributes to maintaining regional peace, stability and development. Politically, the new agreement will give Iran long-term and stable external economic and technological support, which will help Iran maintain domestic stability and development and help maintain regional stability with a more balanced regional power structure. With regard to security, with Iran realizing all-round development following the deal, it will be more motivated to integrate into the international community as it will enjoy a stronger sense of security and have less desire to develop nuclear weapons, easing international anxieties over Iran's nuclear program. Economically speaking, the China-Iran cooperation agreement is a boon to global economic recovery and energy security if Iran, which currently has the world's fourth-largest proven deposits of crude oil, can maintain a stable oil supply to the world.
In addition to economic, political and technological collaboration, the China-Iran 25-year cooperation agreement aims at promoting cultural exchanges between the two countries. People from different countries have created their unique cultures and civilizations. Only by respecting each other and learning from each other can different civilizations achieve harmonious coexistence and common prosperity. By greatly boosting cultural exchanges and mutual learning between China and Iran, the comprehensive 25-year cooperation agreement will become a stellar example of harmonious coexistence and mutual support between different civilizations.
The author is deputy director of the Institute of World Economics and Politics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.