October 31, 2023 | Flash Brief

China Pledges Closer Iran Ties Amidst Middle East Instability

October 31, 2023 | Flash Brief

China Pledges Closer Iran Ties Amidst Middle East Instability

Latest Developments

Chinese Premier Li Qiang met with Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber on October 26 and affirmed Beijing’s commitment to strengthening its “comprehensive strategic partnership” with Tehran. The announcement occurred one day after the U.S. Treasury Department imposed new sanctions on Iran for its “critical role” in “providing financial, logistical, and operational support to Hamas.”

For his part, Mokhber invited China to increase its investments in Iran, particularly in infrastructure and the energy and tourism sectors. Mokhber’s offer coincides with a three-fold increase in Chinese imports of Iranian oil over the last two years.

Expert Analysis

“If Washington expects China to play a constructive role in the Israel-Gaza conflict, it’s in for a surprise. Instead, Beijing’s deepening ties with Iran underscore a shared ambition to challenge and counterbalance the United States, with deadly results.” — Craig Singleton, FDD Senior Fellow and Deputy Director of FDD’s China Program

“Beijing uses Tehran to expand its influence on both sides of the Persian Gulf, from which it imports almost half of its oil. Tehran leverages Beijing to sustain its economy as it moves closer to acquiring a nuclear bomb. This dynamic has been made possible by Washington’s failure to support its allies against Tehran and its proxies’ aggression and by U.S. reluctance to confront Chinese sanction-busting operations. Not supporting Israel in its war in Gaza will only amplify China’s influence in the region to the detriment of the United States.” — Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

China Erases Israel from the Map

This week, Chinese companies Baidu and Alibaba removed Israel as a recognized country from their respective online maps overnight. Baidu’s Chinese-language online maps now delineate the recognized borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories but no longer list Israel as a country. A comparable alteration was also observed in online maps generated by Alibaba’s Amap.

White House Fails to Sway China’s Foreign Minister on Israel-Hamas War

Since the start of the conflict, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged to work with China to prevent the Israel-Hamas war from spreading. However, Beijing has thus far declined to comment on whether it will use its considerable influence over Iran to try to restrain Hamas. Meetings between President Joe Biden and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in late October also failed to result in any such commitment from China.

China Fails to Condemn Hamas Terrorism,” FDD Flash Brief

Beijing Refuses to Condemn Hamas, Steps Up Criticism of Israel,” by Craig Singleton

How Beijing Benefits From a New Iran Deal,” by Craig Singleton


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