Chinese Officials Express Concerns over Attacks on Ships in Red Sea
Chinese officials have recently expressed concerns about the attacks on ships in the Red Sea carried out by the Iran-backed Houthis. They have urged Iran to take measures to rein in the group and prevent further disruption to the trade route between Asia and Europe.
Discussions surrounding these attacks and the trade relationship between China and Iran took place at recent meetings held in Beijing and Tehran. While Chinese officials did not make any specific comments about the potential impact on their trading relationship with Iran, it is clear that they would be disappointed if any vessels linked to China were targeted or if their interests were affected.
China is currently Iran’s biggest trading partner, with China purchasing over 90% of Iran’s crude exports last year. However, this trade relationship is significantly lopsided, leaving China in a dominant position. The attacks by the Houthis have not only disrupted the trade route but also increased shipping and insurance costs.
The United States has asked China to leverage its influence with Iran to persuade Tehran to restrain the Houthis. China has potential leverage over Iran due to its large purchases of Iranian oil and Iran’s desire to attract more Chinese direct investment. However, China has been reluctant to use its leverage for various reasons. One reason is that it prefers to rely on the United States to safeguard freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.
Although China’s influence on Tehran’s geopolitical decisions is not absolute, Iran’s decisions are influenced by a complex interplay of factors. These include regional alliances, priorities, and ideological considerations. While China’s investment is essential for Iran to maintain its oil sector and keep its economy afloat, Iran also has regional alliances and priorities that shape its decision-making.
It remains unclear whether Iran will take any action following the discussions with China. However, the stakes are high for Iran as China possesses the ability to provide the investment required to sustain its oil sector. Ultimately, Iran’s decisions will be influenced by a delicate balance of factors, and China’s leverage will play a significant role in shaping the outcome.
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