China's foreign policy is an attempt to balance its short-, medium- and long-term interests and goals an example of which can be clearly seen in Beijing's position-taking vis-à-vis Iran's nuclear issue ever since the crisis started. On this basis, China has tried to satisfy both sides in one way or the other. Having voted for many anti-Iran resolutions in the past, Beijing suddenly shifts its policy in favor of Tehran at a sensitive juncture. But what should be important for Iran is that China's opposition to adoption of a new resolution against Iran could only delay the sanctions against IRI not halt them. In other words, using the China card is not a permanent solution for Iran.
China's opposition is in fact to serve its short- and medium-term interests but Beijing has also long-term interests which it would not sacrifice with the escalation of pressures. The point is that China would benefit from possible new sanctions against Iran because Tehran would turn to Beijing for its needed goods under the sanctions.
At this juncture of short-term interests, the Chinese must even be happy over slapping new sanctions against Iran but as an emerging global power, China has also some long-term interests in cooperation with the international community and is committed to principles that cannot be ignored. In this manner, China would eventually be forced to follow the wish of the international community.
Although China regards itself a global player, however unlike the United States, it does not claim to be a superpower. As a result, China is reluctant to assume responsibility for maintaining international order and security. Beijing believes its potentials to be different from such responsibility. In fact, China's foreign policy is centered on serving its national interests within cooperation with the international community. This is a principle China has always been faithful to.
In the meantime, despite the difficulties China and the United States have with each other they are still regarded global rivals. One of the main concerns of the US executives and academics is to block the way to China as a new emerging power in the coming century.
China's opposition to adoption of a new resolution against Iran provides it with room to play a more important role in Iran's nuclear issue. Over the past few months, the role played by the other two main parties, namely the EU (especially after the post-election events and their anti-Iran stances) and Russia (due to the Russian president's efforts to get closer to US) has been weakened.
China is the only player which has managed to maintain its independent strategy in Iran's nuclear case and play in favor of Iran. In other words, Iran's nuclear issue provides China with an opportunity to improve its acting power at least for short- and medium-terms and increase its bargaining power with the US in the long term.
Of course, we should remember that China enjoys enormous economic interests in Iran. The volume of trade exchanges (Chinese exports to Iran and energy exports to China) amounted to 27 billion US dollars in 2009. Therefore, economic parameters too had a role to play in China's foreign policy vis-à-vis IRI.
Nevertheless, the Islamic Republic of Iran must be aware that playing the Chinese card is only a temporary solution not a permanent one. In view of the fact that Iran claims to be a regional player and nuclear energy too is a strategic and national issue, it is imperative for IRI to enter into negotiations with the US as the main player in Iran's nuclear case in order to find permanent solutions in the long run.
China, EU and Russia are all costly solutions for Iran although the Chinese option is less costly. Therefore, the real solution is for Tehran and Washington to opt for direct diplomacy over the nuclear issue. This would provide IRI with greater power to play.
The Americans too must not overlook the delicate point that if they voluntarily promote the role of China in Iran's nuclear and strategic programs, they would somehow help develop Beijing's strategic role in a region called the Middle East where Washington has been trying for long years to serve its own interests by preventing the growing power of its rivals. In fact, it would be a strategic blunder for the US to let China get involved in the political and strategic issues of the Middle East.
About Iran Review: Iran Review (www.iranreview.org) is the leading independent, non-governmental and non-partisan website - organization representing scientific and professional approaches towards Iran's political, economic, social, religious, and cultural affairs, its foreign policy, and regional and international issues within the framework of analysis and articles.
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