By Sahar Heydari
The Foreign Minister of Iran and China signed a 25-year cooperation agreement on March 7, which was aired live on state-run TV.
Mohammad Javad Zarif thanked his counterpart Wang Yi, who arrived in Iran on Friday to sign the agreement. According to the state-run ISNA News Agency, Zarif called China, “a friend in harsh times”, referring to the US-implemented sanctions on both countries.
“Our relations with Iran will not be affected by the current situation, but will be permanent and strategic”, state-media quoted Wang Yi.
Background and details
In January 2016, Chinese media and Iran state media reported a meeting between China’s President Xi Jinping in Tehran with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, which was the start of the initial agreement. “Iran is ready to work with China to earnestly implement the Iran-China comprehensive strategic partnership to push bilateral practical cooperation to a new high,” Khamenei said.
The agreements’ draft was compiled in the past two years, an 18-page document allowing China to expand presence in Iran’s banking, telecommunications, ports, railways, and dozens of other projects.
In exchange, China would receive a regular and heavily discounted supply of Iranian oil over the next 25 years. It also includes military cooperation, giving China a foothold in a region. There will be joint training, weapons development, and intelligence sharing.
While the complete details of the China-Iran 25-year agreement are yet to be released, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the agreement was a “road map” for trade and economic and transportation cooperation, with a special focus on both countries’ private sectors. It is also expected to include Chinese investments in Iran’s energy and infrastructure sectors.
According to the New York Times, “China agreed to invest $400 billion in Iran over 25 years in exchange for a steady supply of oil to fuel its growing economy.”
Unconfirmed sources wrote that China will invest 280 billion dollars in Iran’s oil and gas industry, and 120 billion dollars in Iran’s transportation industries. In exchange, Chinese projects will be prioritized, and 5,000 Chinese soldiers will be sent to Iran to oversee the “security” of their projects.
China is one of Iran’s largest trading partners and a long-standing ally. The United States and other Western powers party to the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal are at odds with Iran over which side should first return to the accord, which was abandoned by former U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018.
Response in social media
Iranians took to Twitter to express their anger over the 25-year accord between Iran and China using the hashtag #No2ChinaIRAccord and other hashtags. Many wrote “our country is not for sale” or that the regime had given the control of many cities to China for its own survival, calling the agreement “corrupt”, “a betrayal”, and a “crime” against the people of Iran.
Following criticism regarding why the details of the agreement were not published, the Foreign Ministry’s Assistant for Asia-Oceania Affairs, Reza Zabib, claimed that it was “not customary” to publish agreements that were “unenforceable”.
A plan to stay in power
With the China-Iran 25-year agreement, the Iranian regime plans to re-build the devastated economy using China’s resources to neutralize US sanctions, therefore prolonging its dictatorship and corrupt rule. However, by selling out Iran’s resources to foreign countries, Khamenei is fueling domestic anger even more. He knows the economic crisis, corruption, unemployment, poverty, and other problems that anger Iranians have put the society in an explosive state, prone to protests that can bring down his regime.
Many analysts, even regime insiders, describe the current social environment as a powder keg waiting to explode.