Publications Briefings de l'Ifri
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, 22nd meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Uzbekistan, September 16, 2022.

Is Iran the Big Beneficiary of Chinese Foreign Policy in the Middle East? Briefings de l'Ifri, June 6, 2023

On March 10, the revelation of an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran brokered by China took Western observers and diplomats by surprise. Beijing's unprecedented intervention in the dispute between Riyadh and Teheran confirms its growing ambitions in the region.

  • The Sino-Iranian relationship is asymmetrical, with Iran dependent on China, its leading trading partner, in the face of international sanctions. Conversely, Teheran is just one partner among many for Beijing.
  • In recent years, China has sought to rebalance its regional policy by strengthening its ties with the Gulf monarchies, which has raised concerns in Iran. However, the revelation of the Saudi-Iranian agreement not only shows that Beijing is relying on its proximity to both Riyadh and Teheran. It also points to a rebalancing of the region, in which Iran could be the main winner.
  • The question raised by Beijing's policy in the Middle East is not whether this push could lead to a conflict in the region between the United States and China. Rather, it's a question of measuring the extent to which competition between the two major powers could influence local power balances, and ultimately add to the region's instability.

This content is available in French: L’Iran, grand gagnant de la politique chinoise au Moyen-Orient ?


Defense cooperation diplomacy China Iran