China Takes Victory Lap for Restored Relations Between Saudi Arabia and Iran

Iran's top security official Ali Shamkhani (R), Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (C) and M
CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

China’s state-run Global Times on Friday hailed the China-brokered resumption of diplomatic relationships between Saudi Arabia and Iran as a major milestone in Beijing’s ascension as a global power, and the corresponding sunset of American influence under President Joe Biden.

The Global Times said Friday’s news attracted “worldwide attention” as a breakthrough made possible by China’s determined efforts to find “peaceful settlements of disputes amid growing global uncertainties.”

The article quoted top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi taking a victory lap over the Saudi-Iran agreement:

Wang congratulated the two countries on taking a “historic step” in improving bilateral relations. The two countries have also laid the foundation for follow-up work by outlining the timetable for dealing with each side’s concerns.

Wang told reporters on Friday that the Iran-Saudi Arabia talks in Beijing have achieved a significant outcome and are a victory of dialogue and peace, bringing very good news to an unsettled world.  

Wang also noted that the outcome sent a clear signal that the Ukraine crisis is not the only problem in the world and there are many issues concerning peace and people’s livelihood that call for global attention and proper handling.

The Global Times cited Chinese “experts” who credited Beijing with stabilizing the entire world by working out a deal between the Saudis and Iranians — an alleged much-needed dose of stability to counter the “impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.” 

The Chinese propagandists awkwardly avoided mentioning that the conflict was initiated by China’s top ally Russia, and China has refused to denounce it.

“The dialogue is also a successful application of the Global Security Initiative. As a kind and trustworthy mediator, China has fulfilled its responsibility as a host and will carry on being a constructive player in promoting the proper handling of global heated issues in accordance with each side’s willingness,” Wang said.

The Global Security Initiative (GSI) is a nebulous scheme China cooked up last year as a diplomatic counterpart to the Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. The GSI is so vague that Chinese dictator Xi Jinping can claim it offers an alternative to the paranoid “Cold War mentality” while accepting Russia as a member in good standing, even as it brutalizes the former Soviet state of Ukraine. 

The actual text of the GSI is little more than a grab bag of Chinese Communist Party propaganda slogans like “win-win cooperation.” This gives China an easy way to claim the GSI is somehow instrumental to every positive development but responsible for nothing bad.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted some non-Chinese analysts who said the surprise Saudi-Iranian deal could have significant repercussions in the Middle East, especially in theaters like Yemen, where Iran and the Saudis have almost certainly promised each other they will back away from their respective clients in the long and bloody civil war.

“It’s very likely that Tehran had to commit to pressuring its allies in Yemen to be more forthcoming on ending the conflict in that country, but we don’t know yet what behind-the-scenes understandings have been reached,” Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington senior scholar Hussein Ibish postulated.

AFP’s analysts described China as the “godfather” of the agreement because its influence over Iran was vitally important to reassuring the Saudis.

“This may be a sign of [China’s] growing confidence in its regional presence, it may be a sign that it thinks there is space to challenge US preponderance in the Middle East. In any case, it looks like a diplomatic win for China and a significant departure from its regional approach up to this point,” senior resident Atlantic Council fellow Jonathan Fulton told AFP.


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