Iran-China ties 50 years on: New chapters, future strategic visions
Hamzah Rifaat Hussain


Editor's note: Hamzah Rifaat Hussain is a former visiting fellow at Stimson Center in Washington and serves as assistant researcher at Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) in Pakistan. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.  

Iran and China, as two major powers in the region, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, which comes at a critical juncture given developments in neighboring Afghanistan. In the post-U.S. withdrawal scenario, both countries offer strategic wisdom and regional connectivity prospects in the absence of intervention given that, by all metrics, the 20-year interference of the United States in Afghan affairs has been a total failure. However, opportunities are aplenty for regional stakeholders, encompassing political, economic and military prospects for a more stable region.  

As emphasized by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday and endorsed by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the existence of mutual trust in the absence of skepticism has resulted in an all-weather friendship between Iran and China, which has continued to blossom. Raisi also claimed the time is ripe to leverage this relationship towards exploring further avenues of practical cooperation, which includes capitalizing on two complimentary economies while also promoting soft power exchanges as two of the most important civilizations in human history. 

The shared priorities have now been further strengthened by repeated failures of the U.S.'s coercive diplomacy in both countries in the form of imposing sanctions, military build ups and leaving neighboring Afghanistan with a mass exodus of refugees, chaos and instability prior to the Taliban assuming power. The frailties of U.S. policy making has also vindicated the stance of both Iran and China on issues of mutual concern.  

Take the current castigation of Iran's nuclear progress as a case in point despite Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiations subject to repeated delays in U.S. waivers of sanctions coupled with an unconventional arms embargo. Washington browbeating on Iran's non-compliance is now viewed with suspicion domestically in Iran as simply attempts to thwart multilateralism to serve parochial interests based on intelligence assessments.  

A shuttered store at the Tehran Bazar in downtown Tehran, August 16, 2021. /VCG

A shuttered store at the Tehran Bazar in downtown Tehran, August 16, 2021. /VCG

The veracity of U.S. intelligence assessments have been repeatedly exposed in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region where both future projections and on ground calculations have proven to be nothing but fallacies. Chinese Ambassador to Iran Chang Hua acknowledged the significance of the comprehensive strategic partnership in 2016 which covers a variety of areas such as oil mining, transportation exchanges and building the industrial capacity of Iran which has otherwise fallen prey to pernicious sanctions. 

Reassurances came from Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier in 2021 that China has opposed and will always oppose unreasonable unilateral sanctions imposed on Iran by the outside world. Unconditional and unwavering support is to be the bedrock of the relationship and both China and Iran aim to carry it forward.  

Yet this strategic partnership has much more to offer, which includes the possibility of regional realignment and rapprochement. The possibility exists of an improvement in Iran's relationship with Arab states in the Gulf region in the absence of U.S. meddling, given China's excellent relations with countries ranging from the UAE to Saudi Arabia in the absence of military involvement. 

An improvement in economic ties provides a window for regional stability given than respective U.S. administrations have only served to polarize the region through divisive policies instead of facilitating dialogue between aggrieved parties. Similarly, efforts at solidifying the Belt and Road Initiative with all major stakeholders in West and South Asia can be made possible through mature, visionary, pragmatic and prudent diplomacy from both sides.  

As both countries strive towards enhancing bilateral cooperation which is variegated and strategic, the reciprocity of goodwill and shared visions for the future augurs well for the region as well as the relationship which has continued to gain strength in tumultuous times. By jointly organizing and reflecting upon historical documents which underline the significance of ties, the 50th anniversary of China Iran relations brings plenty of promise for the people of the two countries, the region and world peace.  

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at 

Search Trends