The American ambassador to the United Nations under the former President George W. Bus, ZalmayKhalilzad said that the threat perception on the issue of Iran's nuclear program of Washington is not the same as that of Beijing. He also tried to persuade China for the approval of these sanctions against Iran; however, he said that the Chinese government does not see Iran as the same as America. On the other hand, the president of the Asia Center based in Paris and a prominent Chinese scholar, Francois Godement said that the success of Iran is good news for China.
To be certain, United States and China are the leading members of the panel of nuclear nations, and therefore they share common practical interest in the prevention of the spread of nuclear weapons in sensitive areas like the Middle East. On the other hand, it is also in the interest of China to stay away from making deals with the United States because of the economic as well as the significantly increasingly diplomatic ties that China has with Iran.
However, beyond that, many analysts believe that the differences in the perception of Iran and its expanding the nuclear program between Washington and Beijing are not just economic but also have a strategic and ideological relevance.
The United States does not have to worry about the sanctions that are exercised on Iran since it does not have any economic ties with the country and also considers the Iranian government as a threat to the global security and stability. They are also worried about the rising of Iran as they see as a threat to the American alliances as well as the energy deals in the Middle East (Mafinezam and Mehrabi, 2008).
On the other hand, the links of Tehran and China are increasing with every passing day and the Chinese leaders perceive Iran as a potential ally and not as a threat. Moreover, the Chinese government is also not concerned about development of the nuclear program in Iran even if it leads to the downfall of American influence in this region and dissolution of the resources of Pentagon in the Middle East. A professor of international relations who teaches at Georgia Tech and has also written the book called on the matters of Iran and China claims that the leaders of China do not perceive Iran as a threat but as a country that has great potential and that can dominate the region militarily as well as economically.
According to most of the Chinese scholars and analysts, the relationship that exists between the two countries is nothing but a one-sided one. Iran has made a very smart move and sold all its oil and gas reserves to the Chinese firms and has held the power of development and exploration so that China could keep on backing Iran in the United Nations.
On the other hand, China has played its role and has always opposed the sanctions against the development and expansion of the nuclear program. Most of the other members of the UN Security Council resulted in the sanctions being imposed on Iran with regard to the trade of nuclear related materials.
The political relations of the two countries are divided into two departments. The first one is the military department and the second one is the department of politics and ideology.
China has helped Iran improve its military on several different grounds. There are many departments in which China has helped Iran's military and that includes the conduction of training sessions for the high level officials on the advanced systems that are being used all over the world, the provision of technical support as well as control technology for the development of missile and the provision of special steel for missile construction. Many analysts also believe that China can be held responsible for helping Iran develop the advanced conventional warfare that includes surface-to-air missiles, radar systems, combat aircraft and fast-attack missile vessels. However, the close relationship between the two countries came under the strict scrutiny of America in the 1990s. Through this scrutiny, the United States also discovered that China was making use if North Korea to trade arms during the war between Iraq and Iran so that it does not get antagonized by the West, but later on it finished its ties with North Korea. In the years between 1984 and 1986, almost sales of arms that were worth of $1-2 billion took place (Hickley, 1990). Later on in the year 1986, Iran acquired the ant-ship surface-to-surface missiles that were made in China and that was perceived as a great threat to the shipping in Persian Gulf. If not for these missiles, Iran would not have been able to gain control of the Straits of Hormuz and to take control of the naval trade throughout the Gulf countries. Further inquiries revealed that Iran purchased the dual-use and precursor chemicals as well as equipment and technology from China. In the year 1996, it was revealed in the Washington Post that China was providing Iran with the chemical weapons plants that were constructed for the use of Army. The exports of Arms from China to Iran started to decrease in the 1990s. However, China was involved in an agreement of arms transfer that was worth of $400 million with Iran. It has also been reported that these sales soared up to $600 million from the years 1997 through 2000. On an average, an approximate has been made that China earned $171 million per annum in trade with Iran since the year 1982 (Delpech, 2006).
The official diplomatic relations between China and Iran were started in the year 1971. Before this year, there was an informal relationship between the two countries whose only reason of existence was necessity. However, this necessity is what led to the current relationship between the two countries. In the 1980s, the relationship between these two countries became even stronger when both the governments declared the same ideological themes pertaining to anti-imperialism as well as solidarity of the third world that helped to solidify the ties that existed and the two countries emerged as allies. When the Soviet Union signed a treaty with India, the establishment of a friendly relationship between China and Iran became important to neutralize the increasing Soviet influence in the region (Shuja, 2005).
China and Iran do enjoy friendly relationship, as of now, even though the pressure on China is increasing with every passing day and other members of the UNSC want China to stop trading with Iran so that it is not able to expand its nuclear program any further. It can rightly be said that China supports in Iran in the United Nations and has protested against the sanctions at more than one occasion because the two countries have strong economic ties and China heavily depends on the oil that it imports from Iran. China is also interested in exploring the natural gas oil reserves. However, some of the other analysts and scholars of both the countries believe that China and Iran also share some ideologies because of which China does not mind the rising of Iran; rather it perceives it a potential beneficiary for the future.
China, U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Delpech, Therese. Iran and the Bomb: The Abdication of International Responsibility. Columbia University Press, 2006.
Dorraj, Manochehr & Currier, Carrie L. "Lubricated with Oil: Iran-China Relations in a Changing World" Middle East Policy, 2008.
Downs, Erica&Moloney, Suzanne Moloney."Getting China to Sanction Iran" Foreign Affairs, 2011.
Hickley, Dennis Van. "New Directions in China's Arms for Export Policy: Of China's Military Ties with Iran" Asian Affairs, 1990.
Mafinezam, Alidad&Mehrabi, Aria. Iran and Its Place Among Nations. Praeger Publishers, 2008.