China and Iran signed seventeen agreements on economic and technological cooperation, establishing plans to boost trade to $600 billion (CNBC) in the next ten years. The agreements came during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Iran (Al Jazeera) over the weekend, marking the first by a Chinese leader to the Islamic republic in fourteen years and the first state visit to the country after sanctions were lifted on January 16. Observers say that Xi's visit, which came after trips to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, signals China's increased involvement in the region (NYT) as Tehran vies for investment following the lifting of sanctions.
“Xi’s trip to the region, which also included stops in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, was a continuation of Beijing’s increased involvement in the Middle East. It may be less dramatic than other great powers’ forays into the region (Russia’s recent intervention in Syria, for one), but it is no less significant. It signals that Washington’s decades-long period of unchallenged preeminence in the Middle East is drawing to a close,” writes Michael Singh for Foreign Affairs.
“The Chinese president’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the region can be seen as a response to rising tensions between Riyadh and Tehran. Beijing has important relations with both countries, and cannot afford to lose either. A zero-sum confrontation between Riyadh and Tehran places China in a delicate position: It wants to keep equal closeness to both countries, in a situation that may demand preferential ties,” writes Abdullah Hamidaddin for Al-Arabiya.
“Over the longer run Iran should be able to attract foreign investment, which has fallen in recent years. Among Iran’s attractions are a young, well-educated and largely urban population of 80m. European delegations have flooded into Tehran in the past 18 months, but they still need convincing that the country is politically stable and friendly to business,” writes the Economist.
CFR-Daily News Brief