On March 24, 2021, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi embarked on a seven-day Middle East tour, stopping in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Bahrain. The visit to Iran resulted in the signing of a 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement between Beijing and Teheran, which, according to official sources, is intended to serve as a roadmap for long-term cooperation in a variety of fields, without including any quantitative, specific contracts.
In an April 2, 2021 op-ed in the Beijing Daily, titled "The 25-Year Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement Between China And Iran: The 'Road To Middle East Diplomacy With Chinese Characteristics' Is Getting Wider And Wider," Renmin University professor Li Kunze assessed that the China-Iran deal is "an important milestone in Sino-Iranian relations." He argued that the deal represents China's "unique" diplomatic approach in the Middle East, which he said stands in "stark contrast" to Washington's "hegemonic" foreign policy. He added that the signing of the cooperation agreement is only the beginning of a growing China-Iran "comprehensive strategic partnership."
Below is Li Kunze's article:
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (Source: Wana news agency)
'China's Circle Of Friends In The Middle East Is Getting Wider And Wider
"Recently, a 25-year comprehensive cooperation agreement between China and Iran was formally signed. This is the first time that Iran has signed a comprehensive strategic cooperation agreement with a foreign country, and it is also an important milestone in Sino-Iranian relations.
"The intention to reach this comprehensive cooperation agreement was jointly confirmed in 2016, when China and Iran established a comprehensive strategic partnership. Over the past five years, the two countries have exchanged views and strengthened consensus at high levels many times, which eventually led to the aforementioned fruitful outcome. In the author's view, the long-term mutual cooperation between China and Iran is also a microcosm of China's Middle East diplomacy. We have opened a 'road of Middle East diplomacy with Chinese characteristics' in the complicated international relations of the Middle East with our friendly attitude and unique wisdom.
"In its diplomacy, China has always upheld the spirit of the 'Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence,' which has gained widespread recognition in the Middle East. The majority of Middle Eastern countries firmly supported China's legitimate demands when it reclaimed its legitimate seat at the United Nations in 1971. The Middle East countries reacted positively to the 'Belt and Road' initiative after it was proposed [in 2013]. China has formed comprehensive strategic partnerships with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates during this time, as well as strategic partnerships with Qatar and Jordan and innovative comprehensive partnerships with Israel. It can be said that China's 'circle of friends' in the Middle East is getting wider and wider.
"The Middle East, as is well known, is located in the heart of Asia and Europe, with many countries, complex situations, and conflicts, and has long been the target of foreign intervention by foreign powers. The Middle East region has been in a constant state of war and slow economic development due to the games between the great powers and internal conflicts. As a result, many extraterritorial powers are viewed with suspicion in the Middle East. How does China enjoy such a favorable reputation? It is because, in our diplomacy, we promote a civilizational concept of tolerance and mutual appreciation over dichotomy and confrontation."
'We Have Never Seen [Middle Eastern Countries] As 'The Other' But Rather As Partners'
"China and Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, have different cultural backgrounds and political and economic environments – but we have never seen them as 'the other,' but rather as partners who have created a glorious civilization and have shared the hardships of the new China, giving and receiving support. This philosophy of 'goodwill, sincerity and tolerance,' and China's diplomatic practice of 'partnership and non-alignment' allow Middle Eastern countries, which are mired in political and geographical difficulties, to let down their guard and cooperate more deeply and closely with China.
"History has shown that any country that relies on force and hegemony may win a temporary 'victory' but cannot establish a true friendship with Middle Eastern countries. While China has friendly relations with Middle Eastern countries, some countries, represented by the U.S., have provoked wars and 'color revolutions' in the Middle East, resulting in severe disasters. For example, the U.S. signed the Iran nuclear deal framework with China and Russia to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue peacefully. But Trump reversed the course after taking office, tearing up the agreement, increasing sanctions against Iran, and plotting to overthrow the Iranian government, and the Biden administration has yet to change this misguided policy. The U.S. hegemony is in stark contrast to China's 'goodwill, sincerity and tolerance,' and long-term practice and interaction has shown who is really a trustworthy friend and an advocate of regional peace and prosperity.
"The official signing of the cooperation agreement is only the beginning, and China and Iran's comprehensive strategic partnership will continue to grow. China's Middle East diplomacy has a lot to look forward to in the long run: the Belt and Road Initiative is steadily advancing; negotiations on free trade agreements between China and the six GCC countries and Israel are underway; significant achievements have been made in vaccine cooperation between China and the UAE, Bahrain, Iran and other countries; and China is playing a growing role in the Middle East on issues such as Syria and the Palestinian-Israeli issue. We have reasons to believe that the 'road of Middle East diplomacy with Chinese characteristics' will become broader and broader."
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9267, In Riyadh, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Stresses China's Support For Saudi Initiative In Yemen – And Thanks Crown Prince For Saudis' 'Firm Support For China On The Issues Related To Xinjiang, Hong Kong And Taiwan,' Adds: 'China Opposes External Forces Interfering In Saudi Internal Affairs On Any Pretext,' March 31, 2021; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9266, On Saudi Al-Arabiya TV, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Explains China's 'Five-Point Initiative On Achieving Security And Stability In The Middle East,' March 31, 2021; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9270, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang In Turkey: China Seeks To Strengthen 'Strategic Coordination' With Turkey In Supporting 'Multilateralism' While Rejecting West's 'Unilateralism,' April 1, 2021; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9274, In Tehran, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Signs Bilateral 25-Year Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement, Saying: 'China Firmly Supports Iran In Opposing Hegemony And Safeguarding National Sovereignty And Dignity,' April 6, 2021.
 Fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/xwfw_665399/s2510_665401/t1865136.shtml, March 29, 2021. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9274, In Tehran, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi Signs Bilateral 25-Year Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement, Saying: 'China Firmly Supports Iran In Opposing Hegemony And Safeguarding National Sovereignty And Dignity,' April 6, 2021; MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 9273, Russian Reactions To The Agreement Between China And Iran – A Mix Of Gloating Over America's Comeuppance, Coupled With Concern Over Chinese Competition, April 5, 2021.
 News.bjd.com.cn/comment/2021/04/02/66115t112.html, April 2, 2021.
 The Five Principles of Peace were first written by former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai on December 31, 1953. The Principles are: "mutual respect for each nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty," "mutual non-aggression;" "mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs," "equality and mutual benefit" and "peaceful co-existence."