With the signing of a 25-year agreement between Iran and China, the Iranian government raised the protest of the people, including Iranians who live outside the country. Many people despite the dangers and suppression took to the streets to protest this unfair agreement that ‘sells off’ the country.
There have been numerous protests against this contract of which even the regime’s officials are skeptical and fear its long-time consequences for the country. Most Iranians see this contract as a treason to the country.
A government expert called Mohsen Jalilvand in an interview with the state-run Arman daily said: “Iran sells oil to China at 30 percent discount to evade sanctions. It should be noted that Iran is in a weak position and gives concessions to China at a discount. The policies that we have adopted have shorten our opportunities today. It should be noted that China and Russia cannot be trusted 100 percent, and they play with their card at the JCPOA (2015 Iran Nuclear Deal) table against the West because these two countries have also voted against Iran in the past.” (Arman Daily, March 31, 2021)
Hassan Rouhani’s government is claiming that China did not accept that the contents of this agreement becoming public. Ali Rabiee, the government’s spokesperson, said: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has published the report sheet of this document containing all the outlines and contents of the agreement and it is easily available to everyone. The publication of the full text is subject to the agreement of the parties. I am saying here that we have no intention to publish it, but maybe the other side of us had a different opinion and for some reason they did not want to do so.” (State-run daily Iran Press, March 30, 2021)
The report, cited by Rabiee, is a short text, nearly one-third of which has absolutely nothing to do with the parties’ commitments to the document and is merely about meetings between the parties to agree on and sign the document.
Iranian officials and state media have also referred to the fact that China considers its interests and its relations with important countries to have priority over its relations with the regime and, due to considerations in its relations with other countries, prevents the full publication of the document.
The Arman daily in an article entitled “Everything depends on the lifting of the sanctions” wrote:
“If tensions between Tehran and Washington ease in the future and we see the lifting of some of the sanctions, China could pave the way for the implementation of the provisions of the document, but if the situation continues as it is today, Beijing will not try to take advantage of the document.
“Because it basically cannot act in the shadow of sanctions, as if because of this policy of US maximum pressure now more than $20 billion of Iranian capital is blocked in Chinese banks and Beijing does not made the slightest attempt to release, at least a small part of it, because it cannot release it without the green light of the United States. Everything depends on the lifting of sanctions. Because if the situation continues as before, it is obvious that China will not be able to make any effort to implement the provisions of this document.” (Arman daily, March 31, 2021)
In another article written by a former government diplomat named Ali Khoram, Arman daily warned that the government should count on this agreement: “The Iranian side should not think only of the temporary use of this strategic plan for political, security and enmity purposes with the United States, which China does not give such an opportunity, and this will be opportunity lost. Criticisms against this program or China’s misdeeds are plausible.”
In a third article, the same daily, quoting another retired diplomat named Fereydoun Majlesi, explicitly wrote about China’s considerations towards the United States and the Persian Gulf countries: “It is important to note that China’s trade volume with the United States, Europe, and the Persian Gulf countries are far exceeding that of Iran.”
The overshadowing of China’s relationship with the regime over its relationship with the United States is so obvious that Hamid Aboutalebi, a former Rouhani adviser, said:
“The world is not just the West or the East, but one of the most important parts of the world is the West. So, China and Russia ended the Cold War and interacted with the West to such an extent that now China without the United States, the United States without China means the destruction of the world economy. So much so that now the United States is seeking active resistance with China, and China is seeking engagement with the United States!”
“Let us try to know the Chinese well. They seek real interests, not active resistance, or strategic confrontation with others, especially the West. It is enough to compare the real and controversial understandings of China these days in the region.” (Etemad Online, March 30, 2021)
Iran analysts believe that China would not jeopardize its economic interests with the United States and other important countries because of its relationship with the regime, and Iranian officials are aware of this, but the regime is forced to accept this ‘disgraceful’ document. The reason for this is the economic stalemate and the growing crises that the regime is facing.