0714 GMT January 20, 2022
Iran Daily has conducted an Exclusive interview with Hossein Malaek, Tehran’s former ambassador to China on the forthcoming visit.
How do you see the foreign minister’s upcoming trip to China and how important is it for Iran?
This is the second such visit by a senior Iranian official to China since the inauguration of Iran’s new government [in August]. Earlier, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri [Kani] also visited Beijing. Given the significance of Iran-China relations, the foreign minister’s visit to China appears to be taking place rather late and it could be even appropriate for President Raeisi to travel to China before his visit to Russia.
Relations with China are important in various ways. Currently, as the country is under sanctions, most of Iran’s oil products are exported to China. In addition, China has bought an average of 600,000 to 700,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil per day over the past ten years, when the country has been subject to a US policy of “maximum pressure”. As a matter of fact, Beijing has been the hub from which Iran procured foreign currencies as it faced tough sanctions.
With regard to the pursuit of a “multipolar world” strategy instead of a “unipolar” approach, China is one of the most important countries upon which Iran can rely. The Chinese themselves are among those who initially raised and pursued such a strategy in the world. Moreover, with respect to international alliances, Beijing should be on Tehran’s radar. Given the fact that the West, spearheaded by the United States, has formed a front against Iran, it is quite natural for Tehran to have its own coalitions. China is one the world’s major countries that can make a big difference for Iran in this area.
The visit comes as talks between Iran and the P4+1 countries are underway in Vienna. Do you think that the meeting of the foreign ministers of China and Iran could positively impact the Vianna talks and contribute to the removal of sanctions on the Islamic Republic?
The talks in Vienna revolve around whether or not Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon, though Iran insists it is seeking peaceful nuclear energy. Therefore, the agenda of the Vienna talks are different from Tehran-Beijing bilateral ties. On the nuclear issue, countries speak of a global commitment that no more governments should obtain a nuclear bomb. China is of the same opinion. Russia could apparently be more useful than China for Iran in Vienna. Because Moscow is more determined in forging a coalition against the West than Beijing. However, the Chinese can help Iran over the issue of removing or easing sanctions. Because trade and economic relations between Tehran and Beijing can be further expanded as sanctions are lifted or eased.
You seem to believe that a deal in Vienna that lifts sanctions on Iran could provide China with greater leeway in implementing the long-term cooperation agreement and further develop its relations with Iran.
Definitely, the removal of sanctions or any other major breakthroughs in Vienna will have far-reaching effects on the development of Iran’s relations with other nations. China has complied with liberalist norms, particularly in the economic field, and Iran has been sanctioned with the very same liberalist norms. Consequently, China naturally welcomes the lifting of sanctions on Iran. So, the Chinese are striving in the Vienna talks to get those sanctions removed.
Considering all these different and important aspects of relations between the two countries, and the Iranian foreign minister’s visit to Beijing, in what areas can Iran rely on China to press ahead with its development plans?
The answer to this question, and even the way the 25-year cooperation agreement between the two countries is implemented, depend on our outlook on China and its potentials. One approach could be viewing China as a large supermarket that stocks everything, from which we can import whatever we like. This approach might be handy at times in order to alleviate the pressure of sanctions and overcome some shortages in the short term, but in the long term, it is not politically appropriate.
Another approach could be development-oriented, meaning that the Chinese help us improve the quality and quantity of our infrastructure and advance our planned development projects in certain sectors. For instance, Iran has drawn up a macro development plan for its Makran shore on the Persian Gulf. A development view dictates us to look into the potentials the Chinese have for developing Makran. China is interested in investing in this project as it has taken part in the development of Saudi Arabia’s planned city of Neom through investment.
Could China be a reliable power for Iran in terms of technological and financial capabilities?
Yes. China is a significant power in the world, both in terms of technology and investment potential, and the expansion of Iran-China ties would definitely benefit both nations. I hope the foreign minister’s visit to China will be successful. This trip underscores Iran’s willpower to give China a more important position in its foreign policy. This willpower certainly arises from China’s potentials and capabilities.