- China’s role in global diplomacy has been rising, and Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal may have given Beijing a major boost.
- Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told Business Insider that China has been playing a “smart, quiet game” with its Middle East diplomacy efforts, but may now choose to “fill the vacuum left by the United States.”
- China is a key trade partner of Iran’s, and may be seen as a natural choice to lead future negotiations, giving Beijing more diplomatic power in the Middle East.
China’s role in global diplomacy has been rising, and Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal may have given Beijing a major boost.
China has been playing a “smart, quiet game” with its Middle East diplomacy efforts and may now be able to take on a more leading role in the region, Alex Vatanka, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, told Business Insider.
“China is the country most likely to fill the shoes of the US,” said Vatanka. “When the US is out of the equation, it might not be a bad move for China to speak up and present themselves as the one actor that can come in – together with the Europeans and the Russians – to fill the vacuum left by the US.”
China is one of the signatories of the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement, which promised Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for the country limiting its nuclear program. Compared to other global powers, China has in the past taken a more muted role in the deal’s negotiations and implementation.
“The Chinese haven’t wanted to leave a big footprint in the deal diplomatically, and instead have preferred to focus much more on trade, which long-term has given them more leverage and influence,” Vatanka said.
But China is one of Iran’s largest trade partners and accounts for 22.3% of Iran’s total trade. China’s Belt and Road Initiative has significantly expanded trade opportunities between the two countries and China has pumped billions into Iran’s economy.
With such an important trade relationship, China will likely be the natural choice to lead future negotiations with Iran, giving Beijing even more diplomatic power in the Middle East.
The US has also handed major diplomatic victories to China recently.
By pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, China was able to redirect trade agreements in Asia, and the departure from the Paris Climate Agreement allowed China to take the lead in discussions on climate change.
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