Saturday, October 27, 2018

China in the Middle East: The Iran Factor

Lindsay Hughes, Research Analyst, Indian Ocean Research Programme

Future Directions - 25 October 2018

Key Points
  • Iran possesses the world’s fourth-largest proven crude oil reserves and the second-largest natural gas reserves.
  • Iran has had an antagonistic dispensation towards the United States since 1979, just as China now has.
  • For China, those two factors make Iran an attractive country with which to cultivate an economic and strategic relationship.
  • The relationship remains one of convenience, however, and not a true partnership.
As the first paper in this series indicated, China seeks to develop its relationships with Middle Eastern states for a number of reasons. Those include Beijing’s need to secure its energy imports, to secure its exports via routes that pass through the Middle East and, in the longer term, to increase its regional influence and displace the United States in the region by doing so. These objectives apply fully to its relationship with Iran, perhaps more so than they do with other regional states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Both countries increasingly see themselves as being brought together by those goals and, just as importantly, by President Trump, who sees both as competitors and adversaries to be countered. They perceive the US as a common enemy that needs to be fought jointly by both.