Speaking to the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, Hussein Malaek added: “In the next couple of decades, the world will be divided into two economic poles of China and America, and it is better for Iran to be in the Chinese camp.”
Q: Given Washington’s unilateral policies against Iran and China how significant could growing cooperation between Tehran and Beijing be against the United State?
I believe that US policies towards Iran and China are of two different natures, but both countries have been standing against the world’s greatest power because of their quest for independence. The United States wants to drag China into ‘balance of power’ formulas to a course that would ultimately share Beijing’s relative economic privileges. The nature of this encounter is negotiation and playing with tariffs and market sharing.
Even in the case of the South China Sea, the US recognizes China’s legitimate sovereignty but is concerned about Beijing’s expansionism that could affect US allies. These concerns with security protocols and agreements can be alleviated like during the Cold War. Many Chinese political analysts emphasize the effectiveness of the two countries’ cooperation for world peace and stability. In the case of Iran, the issue is generally different. The US is targeting Iran’s political system and its aim is for Tehran to adjust its political stances.
However, given China’s capabilities and its resolve to counter US demands, the opportunity for cooperation between the two countries within certain frameworks has increased.
Q: Given the US trade war against China, can partnerships between Tehran and Beijing in the West and East Asia turn into strategic cooperation?
In the China-US trade war, Iran cannot assume much of a role except for possible opportunities such as lowering prices of Chinese goods and products or increase Chinese investments in Iran.
Despite Iran’s needs and China’s relatively open doors to meet these demands, Beijing’s relationship with Tehran is still not strategic. China cannot rely solely on Iran to serve its economic and political interests in the Middle East. However, the independent political nature of Iran is important to China. Beijing has many other options to supply its energy than Iran. It also has larger markets to sell goods in other countries, according to statistics. If China wants to get into the geopolitical game, Iran has an important place to play. On the other hand, relations with Iran is of strategic importance and should be taken into consideration.
Q: What are the messages and implications of the 25-year strategic plan with China?
Of course, I disagree with the figure 25 years for this plan, because the world is changing rapidly and developments are not allowing relationships to stabilize. Every time countries define new interests and formulate policies accordingly. But one thing is certain. It is obvious that in the next couple of decades the world will be divided into Chinese and American economic poles, and it is better for Iran to join the Chinese camp. Meantime, it would be appropriate if Iran’s domestic policy developments follow a course of stability. But history has shown that national interests are often overlooked and undermined. However the principle of this (25-year) plan is very good and important.
Q: Considering the US sanctions against Iran, will China have an impact in energy sector and oil cooperation?
China has now reduced or halted official oil purchases from Iran because of the US oil sanctions. Even in energy investments the activities have been halted pending clarification of the Iran-US relations. This is a testament to the power of US global policy and is not a positive point for China in relation to Iran. In buying oil from Iran, if China adopts the same policy it adopts when purchasing from a small country, it is not a good thing because Beijing is expected to show more resistance against imposed US demands.
Q: In your view, has China played an active role in connection with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)?
China is one of those countries that does not want the demise of the Iran Nuclear Agreement (JCPOA). This is a positive thing. After all, China has played a role in condemning the US withdrawal from the deal and blocking US actions at the United Nations to undermine the JCPOA. But it is unclear as to whether Beijing would maintain the same stance individually because efforts to maintain the JCPOA is tantamount to grants to Europe to maintain their intended financial structure, namely Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX ). In my opinion, China does not yet fully trust Europe’s politically motivated goals.