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The China-Mediterranean Observer: Everyone’s Calculating the Impact of the China-Iran Deal

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, pose for a picture after signing an agreement in the capital Tehran, on March 27, 2021. AFP

Unsurprisingly, among the noteworthy events that took place this month, the media of the wider Mediterranean region focused on the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the Middle East in late March. Although there are concerns over the impact on the region from the rising competition between China and the United States, China remains welcome there. At the same time, however, tensions rise between China and Turkey, and European countries over new and old issues related to Chinese investment and the situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Interestingly, we have also found news regarding recent developments in the security relations between Ethiopia and China prompted by the Tigray crisis of November 2020.

We start our review with the signing of the Iran-China 25-year cooperation document on March 26, during Wang Yi’s visit to Tehran. The document, which has been extensively analyzed by experts in Sino-Iranian relations, consists of a general roadmap for the strengthening of the relations between the two countries in different fields, such as industry and trade, infrastructure, military cooperation, and finance. Although some ambiguities persist due to the fact that the official text of the agreement has not been published yet, most Iranian media close to the political establishment expressed high hopes for the future development of the Sino-Iranian partnership. For instance, the Institute for Production Management Strategic Studies of Imam Sadiq University analyzed the possible implications of the agreement in the oil and energy industry, foreign trade, the automotive industry, the financial sector, and the field of technology and innovation.  What is important to note is that the authors of this study stress clearly that there need to be a clear and thorough strategy that takes into consideration “both domestic and foreign factors” for Iran to achieve substantial benefits from the implementation of future contracts within the framework of this cooperation agreement. According to the study,  special attention should be given to the development of the country’s free-zones, which should be able to attract numerous foreign investments in trade and finance, and technology and knowledge-transfer mechanisms between Iran and China.

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