CHINA, IRAN SIGN COMPREHENSIVE 25-YEAR COOPERATION AGREEMENT
On 27 March, the foreign ministers of China and Iran signed a 25-year cooperation agreement to strengthen their long-standing economic and political alliance. The deal, discussed since 2016, came to fruition on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Iran and China, and at a time when their key interests overlap amid various international and regional developments. The agreement received a mixed response both globally and domestically, although it was largely described as a win-win for the partners. Some of the major benefits for China pertain to the extension of China’s influence in the Middle East and gaining access to Iranian assets, such as its ports and oil sales. It is another geo-strategically significant step in China’s expansion of the One Belt One Road (otherwise known as the Belt and Road Initiative) – a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure scheme and economic development initiative intended to build the “New Silk Road,” connecting China to around 137 signatory countries throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, through mutually beneficial cooperative deals. OBOR projects, while controversial – in part due to their vagueness, susceptibility to abuse by Chinese firms without governmental oversight, their risk of debt-trap diplomacy, and the questionable actual gain for the locals in project countries – are hoped to inject life back into Iran’s struggling economy with China’s $450 billion worth of investment in transportation, energy, petrochemicals, and other sectors. The agreement also covers political, military, and defence cooperation. Iran, which has long been isolated regionally and internationally, referred to China as “a friend for hard times”. Both countries are currently under various US sanctions and have faced an overall souring of relations with the world’s strongest economy. This agreement could alleviate some of the pressure imposed by the US and its allies. Iran’s alliance with China may also force the US to reconsider its policies towards Iran, especially with regards to its nuclear accord (formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), from which the US officially withdrew in 2018.
From a Christian perspective, there are some concerns over the strengthening of ties between two authoritarian nations. In worldly terms, however, good could come from it. Balancing of power can lead to healthy change, forcing governments to reassess the way they have traditionally dealt with specific nations, possibly leading to more constructive and balanced relationships. One of the greatest outcomes, however, could be spiritual, if we see two long-persecuted Churches – the Chinese and Iranian Churches – taking hands, possibly exponentially multiplying their Kingdom efforts. In Iran, where Islam is intertwined in their political system, the government sees the conversion of Muslims to Christianity as an attempt by Western countries to undermine the Islamic rule of Iran, and thus persecution of believers has been severe. The Chinese Communist Party has a similar suspicion of Christianity in China being a Western attempt to undermine them. However, since it is Christ who is building His Church (Matthew 16:18), not any country or system, we can confidently trust Him to do it, even using human constructs such as this most recent agreement. The increased cooperation between the two nations on a political/economic level could lead to a strengthening of the Church in both nations, free of overt Western influence.
Please pray with us for the following:
- For a godly response from Western countries and those hostile towards Iran and China
- For the Lord’s will to be done through this strengthened Sino-Iranian alliance, and for the Church in both countries to be strengthened and encouraged
- For the larger Body of Christ to increase their prayer and intercession for the Church in these two nations
Image: REUTERS/Wana News Agency