Chinese President Xi Jinping has clearly shown his preferences for Saudi Arabia over Iran when he signed a comprehensive agreement on strategic partnership and a harmonisation plan with his Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on his recent visit to the Islamic nation.
Iran’s foreign ministry summoned China’s ambassador to Tehran over joint statement and expressed the resentment.Iran’s National Security Committee has described it as “China’s interference in Iran’s internal affairs conflicts with good international cooperation.”In fact, there is a fear among the Irani leaders that China’s rapidly warming relations with Saudi Arabia would have an adverse impact on China-Iran relations. According to Iran experts, the development runs counter to Beijing’s long-standing pledge of neutrality. Under the banner of non-interference, China has never tried to play the role of a mediator between Iran and rivals in the Middle East. But the joint statements released during President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia have left policymakers in Tehran wondering if there is a change of direction in China’s policies toward the region, especially in the wake of a reduced US presence there.
The joint statement released last week after the meeting of China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations has referred to Iran as a supporter of regional terrorist groups and a proliferator of ballistic missiles and drones. It also noted the importance of addressing “the Iranian nuclear file and destabilizing regional activities.” The joint statement has made a reference to the long disputed three long-disputed islands in the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran is concerned about the slow pace in huge investments China promised when it had signed a 25-year cooperation agreement with Iran last year. The agreement was considered as a roadmap to potentially massive investments worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
A political advisor to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has reacted to China’s recent move to seek closer ties with Saudi Arabia, saying that it was Iran that stood up against plots by Saudi Arabia and the United States nearly a decade ago that intended to destabilize countries in the region. Mohammad Jamshidi wrote that while Saudi along with the US backed ISIS/Al-Qaeda in Syria and brutalized Yemen, Iran had fought terrorist groups to restore regional stability and to prevent the spread of insecurity toward both East and West. His comments clearly reminded China of Saudi Arabia’s credentials while pointing out that China should not ignore Iran for Saudi Arabia.
Other experts from Iran stated that the Chinese government wants to protect own interests any how. China’s biggest energy supplier is Saudi Arabia and Beijing is looking to establish a long-term relationship with Riyadh to ensure that its energy needs are met. Senior political analyst Sabah Zanganeh said that the Chinese government has its own interests in mind, including by ensuring that it has a stable provider of energy. China’s biggest energy supplier is Saudi Arabia and Beijing is looking to establish a long-term relationship with Riyadh to ensure that its energy needs are met. Zanganeh who has served as a lawmaker, a deputy culture minister, and Iran’s ambassador to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) explained stating that China addressed its energy needs, such as for oil and oil products, through purchases from Iran, but the energy (sources) that it is looking for in Iran are subject to many problems, the most important of which being the sanctions by America. According to him, Iran’s problem that it has limited itself to a handful of countries at the cost of others.On December 9, and at the end of a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia, leaders of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Xi issued a statement that included three articles with hostile rhetoric against Iran.
Irani Media has come down heavily on China. Iranian newspapers hit out at China. Ham-Mihan headlined an article, “China’s Turnaround on Iran”. The daily Aftab was no less scathing about the Chinese. It published images of protesters in China, asking “Did the Chinese government hear the voice of the protesters?” Reformist Etemad on December 11 asked, “What is China’s plan for the Middle East?” Now the question is how China would handle Iran? Will it dump for Saudi or make false promise to Iran that it wants good diplomatic relations. Will it interfere in the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia over three islands?
Iran and Saudi Arabia have been at loggerheads over the ownership of the islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Musa. The three islands are being governed by Iran since 1971 but claimed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In 1971 the then-shah of Iran had dispatched the Iranian royal navy to the three islands after the British withdrew their armed forces from territories that are today the UAE. Iran has ever since rejected statements from Emirati leaders that the islands belong to the UAE. Iran has always claimed that the islands were “inseparable parts of Iran’s pure soil”. People of the islands are all Persian-speaking Arabs who use the Bandari dialect of Persian, which is infused with Arabic words and syntax.