(Persia Digest) – Former Iranian Ambassador to China believes: “Iran’s present government has shown that it does not take ties with China seriously, even under the current critical conditions. Larijani’s speech in Renmin University was a reflection of Tehran’s uncertain foreign policy towards Beijing.”
Last week, a high-ranking delegation from Iran including Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, CBI governor, and foreign, petroleum, and finance ministers traveled to China. On this trip, Iran’s Foreign Minister stated that ties between Iran and China were strategically the most important in the world; but the Chinese Foreign Minister asked for the deepening of strategic trust between the two countries. Speaker Larijani also talked about the failure of the Marxist theory in Renmin University! A few days later, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salman traveled to China and signed contracts worth USD 28BN with this country.
What are the differences between the achievements of the Iranian and Saudi delegations in China?
Mohammad-Hossein Malaek, former Iranian Ambassador to China, told Persia Digest (PD) in an interview: “In my view, MBS’s trip to five Asian countries to redeem his image following the murder of Khashoggi is uncomparable with Mr Larijani’s trip to Japan and China out of self-fascination. These two trips cannot be compared, especially as Saudi Arabia is in an offensive position and Iran is in a defensive position.”
He added: “The Saudi-UAE approach can be evaluated in relation to US policies which has placed China on its list of priorities instead of pursuing the issues of Iraq and Syria in the Middle East. Of course, a long path still remains to be traveled before the billion dollar contracts between Riyadh and Beijing are fulfilled and these must not be blown out of all proportion. The US plans to challenge the unilateral policies of China in Pakistan and dilute their influence. The supporters of this policy alongside the US are Saudi Arabia and the UAE which has led to an increasing influence in Pakistan by these three countries and transformed it into a strategic threat for Iran.”
This former high-ranking diplomat explained: “Saudi Arabia has little capacity to work against Iran in China and India. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the leaders of these two countries are in the driving seat of managing Iran’s foreign relations with themselves and they have envisaged a place for Iran in their macro policies which will maintain minimal relations between the two countries.”
He continued: “These minimal relations will continue in the sanctions period and it is not expected to diminish further. But, under normal conditions, it can be extended to understandings and interests commonly expressed between countries. Nevertheless, the current Iranian government has indicated that it does not take ties with China seriously, even under the current critical conditions and the Chinese understand this only too well. Thus, barring standard protocol and meetings to keep normal ties, Mr Larijani and his accompanying delegation’s trip to China can be defined as merely ceremonial.”
Speaking about Iran-China relations, Malaek reiterated: “Ties between Iran and China must be studied as adjusting to a superpower. Without due process and planning, the benefits of bilateral relations cannot be exploited. A lack of good judgment in relations with China in the past 5-6 years has meant that they are waiting for domestic developments inside Iran. Ties can be regulated between the two by signing MoUs and contracts. But, it is especially dependent on an understanding of the nature of the relationship and how the two envisage one another.”
Commenting on FM Zarif’s emphasis on strategic ties with China, he said: “Views aired by Mr Zarif are neither acceptable to himself nor to his Chinese counterpart and this is the main issue between Tehran and Beijing. Iran neither defends Chinese Muslims like Turkey does nor does it have a strategy for ties with China. The reflection of this uncertainty can also be seen in the speech by Mr. Larijani at Renmin University.”
Iran’s former Ambassador to China commented on the outcome of the visit by the Iranian delegation to Beijing by saying: “Under the sanctions, the outcome of Mr Larijani’s trip will be no more than what has already been agreed to by experts of both countries, which is the minimum envisaged by the Chinese in a crisis situation. China will buy an average of 500 thousand bpd of oil from us and will not spend more money on more EU influence in Iran’s political system by compensating for their lack of purchase. China will also help its companies by supporting them and opening the way to circumvent sanctions. The most important principle is trust and credit on the global market. This principle has been lost in Iran's relations with many countries, including China. For this reason, managing our foreign relations is more in the hands of the other side.”
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