According to a report at Tasnim News, Chinese President Xi Jinping will make his first visit to Iran on January 22, at the invitation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Xi will bring a “high-ranking political and economic delegation” with him to Tehran, for the purpose of “deepening bilateral, regional, and international ties as well as improving the level of mutual cooperation in different political, economic, trade, and cultural fields between Tehran and Beijing.”
Xi’s visit reportedly will also include signing Memorandums of Understanding on a variety of joint infrastructure deals.
Tasnim News suggests Iran is looking to reinforce its ties with China and develop more alliances around the world after the removal of sanctions as part of its nuclear deal.
According to AFP, President Xi will also visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt during his trip, pursuing stable relationships to secure a steady supply of Middle Eastern oil for its growing economy, and also to develop the massive “New Silk Road” trade project, formally known as “One Belt One Road.” Iran became a founding member of the infrastructure bank funding this project immediately after the nuclear deal was signed.
Willy Lam, professor of politics at Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP China saw an opportunity to increase its presence in the Middle East because U.S. policy “hasn’t been very successful under Obama.”
A major concern for China’s plans in the Middle East is the conflict brewing between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Professor Zhu Feng of Peking University’s School of International Studies told AFP that Xi would seek to play the “role of persuader” between the Saudis and Iranians during his visit, but China would avoid playing a “main role” in healing the rift between them.
As China’s state-run Xinhua news agency put it, “Although China never takes sides, it will be a rare opportunity for China to call for calm and restraint from both sides.”