The world should carefully watch the new ten-year trade deal of US$600 billion between Iran and China, writes Sara Hsu in the Diplomat. The two new kids at the block is likely to change the international power balance.
China’s aims in relations with controversial foreign regimes are most often to promote economic ties that serve its self-interest rather than to choose a preferred political ideology. Even as China has maintained genial relations with the West, the nation has been criticized for doing business with dictators that engage in atrocious human rights violations. China’s policy has been “noninterference in internal affairs.” Although regular trade relations with violent regimes may be necessary to supply goods to the people, trade in weapons and nuclear materials supports violence and can be easily viewed as interference in internal affairs.
Moreover, Iran’s commitment in fighting terrorism can be called into question. The U.S. State Department has repeatedly accused Iran of supporting terrorism, including Hezbollah and the Syrian army under President Bashar al-Assad. Terrorism has been viewed as a tool of the state since 1979, after the launch of Iran as an Islamic Republic. Iran has used terrorism to weaken rival governments, influence disputes outside its borders, and to intimidate or use as political leverage. While certainly relations in the Middle East are complex and often hostile, Iran’s use of terrorism against a multitude of parties renders it a questionable ally against terrorism.
Whether China’s relations with Iran are a threat to the West can be viewed from different perspectives, but the real threat of violence stemming from Iran must be taken seriously. As a key stop on China’s One Belt One Road, Iran’s importance to China seems healthy, but the sales of weapons or nuclear material in particular cast a shadow over this partnership. As China becomes increasingly influential on the world stage, this relationship will likely be more deeply scrutinized.
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