Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation Agreement with Iran, “thanks to a Friendly Attitude and Unique Wisdom”

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif signed an agreement on a strategic partnership for the duration of 25 years, a deal that, the BBC believes, could give Iran more leverage with the US. While Iran is an important trading partner with even more potential for China, Zarif’s bow to Wang Yi (which apparently isn’t reciprocated) might indicate who needs who more urgently.

Washington reportedly evaluates if a $400 billion investment deal also signed by the two sides “will trigger sanctions under American law”. A day after the signing ceremony, Iran’s foreign radio reported that “major American papers and news outlets have warned about decline in the United States’ power and sphere of influence”.

The following is a translation of a commentary by a People’s University scholar in the Beijing Daily (北京日报), published on April 2 local time and UTC. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

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With the Sino-Iranian 25-years comprehensive cooperation agreement, the “road of Mideast diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” is becoming ever broader (中伊25年全面合作协议,“中国特色中东外交之路”越走越宽)

In the past few days, a Sino-Iranian comprehensive strategic cooperation agreement for the duration of 25 years has been officially signed. This is the first time that Iran has signed a comprehensive strategic cooperation agreement with any foreign country, and an important milestone in Sino-Iranian relations.

近日,为期25年的中伊全面合作协议正式签署。这是伊朗首次与外国签署全面战略合作协议,也是中伊关系的重要里程碑。

In 2016, China and Iran established a comprehensive strategic partnership. At the time they also jointly confirmed their intention of achieving this kind of comprehensive cooperation agreement. For five years, there have been high-level exchanges of opinion, a strengthening consensus, and finally the achievements as mentioned above. In the author’s view, the two countries’ movement into the same direction is also a microcosm of China’s Mideast diplomacy. Thanks to a friendly attitude and unique wisdom, we have opened a “road of Mideast diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” within the complicated international relations.

2016年,中伊建立全面战略伙伴关系,当时便共同确认了达成这项全面合作协议的意向。五年间,两国高层多次交换意见、强化共识,最终促成了上述硕果。在笔者看来,中伊两国长期的相向而行,也是中国中东外交的一个缩影。凭借友好态度与独特智慧,我们在中东纷繁复杂的国际关系中开辟了一条“中国特色中东外交之路”。

China has always upheld the spirit of the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence”, which has won it the wide-spread recognition of Mideast countries. When China recovered its legitimate seat at the United Nations in 1971, the overwhelming majority of Mideast countries firmly supported China’s legitimate claim. After the “One Belt one Road” initiative had been proposed, the Middle Eastern countries responded positively. During this period, China established comprehensive strategic partnership relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, as well as strategic partnerships with Qatar and Jordan, and an innovative comprehensive strategic partnership with Israel. It can be said that China’s Mideastern “friendship circle” keeps widening.

中国在外交中一直秉持“和平共处五项原则”精神,赢得了中东国家的广泛认可。1971年中国恢复联合国合法席位时,绝大多数中东国家都坚定支持了中国的合法诉求。“一带一路”倡议提出后,中东国家更是积极响应。在此期间,中国与伊朗、沙特阿拉伯、埃及、阿拉伯联合酋长国建立了全面战略伙伴关系,与卡塔尔、约旦建立了战略伙伴关系,与以色列建立了创新全面伙伴关系。可以说,中国的中东“朋友圈”越来越大。

As everyone knows, the Middle East region is located centrally within the Eurasian continent, with numerous countries, complex situations, thickets of contradictions, and traditional interference by foreign powers. Big-power games and internal clashes have kept the Mideast region in war and chaos for a long time, with the economy developing only slowly. Therefore, Mideast countries have a skeptical attitude towards many foreign powers. Why does China have such a good reputation? In its diplomacy, China advocates tolerance and setting mutual example rather than civilizational concepts of bipolar antagonism. China and Mideastern countries, including Iran, have different civilizational backgrounds and political and economic environments, but we have never looked at this as something “other”, but looked at them as those who once established splendid civilizations, and which went through thick and thin with New China, who kept watch and defended one another as good partners. This concept of “goodwill, sincerity and tolerance” as well as China’s diplomatic practice of “non-aligned partnership” has led the politically and geographically troubled Mideastern countries to relax precautions and to develop still deeper and closer development with China.

众所周知,中东地区位于亚欧大陆中心位置,国家众多,形势复杂,矛盾丛生,长期以来频频遭受域外大国的干预。大国博弈和内部冲突让中东地区长期战乱,经济发展缓慢。因此,中东国家对很多域外大国都带有怀疑态度。为什么中国能够做到有口皆碑?正在于我们在外交中倡导包容互鉴而非二元对立的文明观念。中国与包括伊朗在内的中东国家有着不同的文化背景和政治经济环境,但我们从未将其视为“异类”,而是看作曾创立过辉煌文明,又与新中国甘苦与共、守望相助的好伙伴。这种“亲诚惠容”的理念,以及中国“结伴不结盟”的外交实践,让深陷政治地理困境的中东国家可以放下戒备,与中国开展更加深入密切的合作。

The official signing of the agreement is only a beginning, and the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Iran continues to grow stronger. From a wider perspective, China’s Mideast diplomacy also merits expectations: The “One Belt one Road” initiative is advancing steadily, China’s talks on free-trade agreements with the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council and with Israel are unfolding, Notable achievements have been made in China’s vaccine cooperation with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Iran and other countries, China plays a growing role in the Syria issue, the Palestine-Israel issue and other Mideast hot spots … We have reason to believe that the “road of Mideast diplomacy with Chinese characteristics” is becoming ever broader.

合作协议正式签署只是一个开始,中伊两国全面战略伙伴关系还在不断加强。以更大视野来看,中国的中东外交也值得期待:“一带一路”倡议稳步推进,中国与海合会六国、以色列的自由贸易协定谈判正在开展,中国与阿联酋、巴林、伊朗等国的疫苗合作取得显著成就,中国正在叙利亚问题、巴以问题等中东热点问题中发挥越来越大的作用……我们有理由相信,“中国特色中东外交之路”将越走越宽。

(The author, Li Kunze, is a doctor at the People’s University’s1) School of International Studies.)

(作者李坤泽系中国人民大学国际关系学院博士)

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Notes

1) aka Renmin University
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