The Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) hosted a virtual meeting entitled “Iran, China, and World Affected by Coronavirus Pandemic” on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, under the auspices of Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS). The speakers at the online meeting were Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpoor, president of the IPIS; Saeed Khatibzadeh, IPIS deputy director for research; Gholam Ali Khoshroo, former permanent representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations; Mahdi Farazi, senior fellow at the IPIS; Mojtaba Roozbahani, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s former ambassador to Afghanistan and senior fellow at the IPIS; Kayhan Barzegar, director of the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies and Scientific Research, and also a university professor; Chen Dongxiao, president of SIIS; Sun Dixang, professor of Fudan University; as well as Jin Liangxiang, Xue Chen and Zhang Jian, senior research fellows at China Institute of International Studies.
The first part of the webinar revolved around the bilateral relations and the world after the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, its consequences, and the US’ stances on the coronavirus to find answers to the following questions: How will the post-coronavirus world be like? Will the pandemic have systematic impacts on international relations, or will the world be facing just another short-term challenge? What are the reasons behind the US’ passive confrontation with the virus?
The main topics discussed in the second part of the webinar included the latest developments in the West and East Asia, particularly in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, the China Sea, and Hong Kong, as well as the challenges and opportunities for mutual cooperation.
The main discussions held in response to those questions were as follows:
As two old civilizations in Asia, Iran and China have established economic and cultural relations for thousands of years within the framework of the Silk Road. Also today, the relations between Iran and China are of great significance for the both sides in all fields. The basis of the relations is fulfillment of common interests. Both countries are willing to enhance their constructive relations at all levels and in all fields. The cooperation between Iran and China after the outbreak of coronavirus and the fight against the disease indicates the deep friendship between the two governments and nations. One of the main impacts of the coronavirus pandemic is that racism and populism have strengthened, while multilateralism has weakened. Meanwhile, certain countries such as the US, which have displayed the worst way of management of the virus, have started to blame the other countries like China instead of accepting their weakness, in order to cover up their weak performance. The main reason for the US’ current actions against China and Iran is China’s economic and technological progress and the failure of the US policies in the Middle East. Currently, the best approach to countering the US’ policy of sanctions and threats is to focus on the improvement of the economic situation, followed by the regional and international cooperation. Both Iran and China have soft power, hard power, and smart power. They can employ those tools against the US policies and minimize the impact of US pressures.
Due to China’s need for the Persian Gulf’s energy, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf are gaining a growingly more important position in China’s foreign policy. A new chapter began in the relations between Iran and China after they released a joint statement on strategic cooperation in 2016. Stronger regional economic cooperation would contribute to peace and stability in the Middle East region. As a result, the Silk Road initiative is extremely important for Iran, because it would strengthen Iran’s economic relations with the neighboring states and connect it to the Mediterranean Sea.
As regards the developments in Afghanistan, the existing challenge is the resurgence of the Taliban. The path that the US is pursuing will ultimately allow the Taliban to take power. However, the pullout of American forces from Afghanistan would provide an opportunity for the Afghan groups, including the country’s central government, to take control of the country by themselves, as Iran and China express support for the Afghan central government. The US moves in the China Sea are meant to create a new front for countering China. China is prepared to resolve the disputes with the Philippines in the South China Sea peacefully.