China’s state-run Global Times urged Europeans to help Beijing “defend global order” as U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday.
The Global Times described the nuclear deal as an “important multilateral achievement” and an “example for resolving hot international issues through political and diplomatic means” that was working perfectly.
“Since the agreement was reached, it has played a role of stabilizing the Middle East,” the Chinese paper wrote.
“Yet since Trump threatened to rip it up, predictions that the Middle East will once again be bogged down in crisis have emerged: Tehran may restart its nuclear enrichment program and its archrival Saudi Arabia would likely develop nuclear weapons too. Other nations in the region would also likely follow suit. Israel, the country Iran once stated must be ‘wiped off the map,’ might immediately launch a preemptive strike against Tehran,” the editorial predicted, in a tense that suggests it was written before Trump announced his decision.
In a similar vein, the Global Times predicted the demise of North Korean diplomacy if Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, but what actually happened was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flying home from a surprise mission to Pyongyang with three freed American prisoners.
The Global Times distilled the Democrat Party’s “America First = isolationism” argument down to a few short paragraphs:
As Trump puts the planet on notice that “America First” is not just a campaign slogan, he turns his back on multilateralism and the stability of the current international order. Suppose the U.S. quits the Iran nuclear deal. Apart from unimaginable chaos in Middle East, the hard-won silver lining of resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis might slip away, with Washington losing all credibility.
The U.S. is becoming a deal-breaker and Trump is making no bones about it. How can we save the global order that Washington is abandoning? This is not only a matter of the Middle East or Europe, but the entire world. The world is getting messier because of the U.S. Major regional powers, including Beijing and Brussels, must consolidate their political will. It is time for them to deliberate how to jointly confront the U.S. and defend the global order.
China’s official position is a somewhat more muted commitment to “maintain communication with all parties and continue to protect and execute the agreement fully,” as the Foreign Ministry put it on Wednesday.
The South China Morning Post points out that China has reason to worry that continuing to do business with Iran might lead to a conflict with U.S. sanctions, citing the case of punitive action by the U.S. government against Chinese telecom company ZTE in April.
ZTE, it should be noted, was punished after it pled guilty in U.S. federal court to illegally using a large quantity of American components in equipment shipped to Iran and taking deliberate steps to cover up the illicit activity.
China’s main concern with regard to Iran is oil. China is the single largest customer for Iranian oil, accounting for almost one-third of Iran’s oil shipments. Paradoxically, as CNN Money explained on Tuesday, renewed sanctions on Iran could actually help China by making more oil available for it to purchase, assuming Europe respects U.S. sanctions while China does not.
China was a voracious consumer of Iranian oil even before the nuclear deal lifted sanctions, and has gobbled up much of recently increased Iranian production that seems intended to beat the reimposition of sanctions.