• The Law Gazette

Entry of Iran in the US-China Animosity

There has been an astonishing change of relationship of the USA, with two of the major players of Asia in just a short period. These two countries were China and Iran. The Sino-US relations begin to sour from the time of the trade war in which the two largest economies of the world started imposing progressively higher taxes on each other’s trading commodities and hit the peak since the spread of the Covid-19 from China and successive cover-ups done by it. While the Iran-US relations were marred from the time the US left the Iran Nuclear Deal of 2015 and then imposed heavy sanctions on Iran. All these events brought together the two US-suffered patients-Iran and China together. It can be said that the Iran-china proximity is growing at the same pace as the Iran-US relations are breaking apart.


It is obvious that US-Iran relations were not that good and were very sophisticated for decades of their history. Nevertheless, for the last 20 years, a new bone of contention was added between the two countries i.e. ‘the Iran Nuclear Issue’. In the 2000s, it came to the notice of the world that Iran is actively indulged in developing its nuclear weapons program. Although Iran first denies the charges as it gradually became obvious, the series of sanctions from the USA, the United Nations, and many European countries followed.

As Iran continued its Nuclear Program extensively and was nearing its dream to develop the nuclear warheads, tensions rose in the USA. Finally, after years of talks and consideration, as a solution, the US regime with five other countries [together known as P5+1 countries; USA, UK, France, China and Russia + Germany] and Iran formulated the agreement known as the ‘Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action’ or simply the ‘Iran Nuclear Deal’. This agreement is very effective but still was condemned on the fact that it restricts the Iran Nuclear Program only for the limited period and it was speculated that once the deal ends totally in 2030, Iran would immediately develop the Nuclear Warheads.

On these grounds, the US under Donald Trump not only pulled itself out from the ‘Iran Nuclear Deal’ but also imposed heavy sanctions on Iran. This marked the start of new bitterness among the two countries. The tensions keep on rising between the two countries marked by the series of actions and reactions by both of the countries. In May 2018 as part of the sanctions, the USA sanctioned the Iranian oil exports and also the countries that would purchase oil from Iran. In turn, Iran became aggressive in the gulf region, threatens to block the Strait of Hormuz, destroyed an American Drone, and believed to have been attacked some oil tankers also. Adding to all this animosity USA declared the ‘Iranian Revolutionary Guards’, a wing of the Iranian army as a terrorist organization and in turn, Iran also declared US forces as the terrorists. The USA on the 3rd of January 2020, also attacked and killed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards topmost leader, General Qasem Soleimani for which Iran attacked US military camps. All these events deteriorated the US- Iran relations to the abyss.


Similar to Iran, China also had very complex relations throughout its history with the US and in the last 4-5 years, these relations have seen the conflicts and bitterness that had not seen in decades of their history. The relations begin to worsen with the onset of the trade war between the US and China in July 2018. Since the accession of China in the WTO in 2001, it became one of the highest exporter countries in the world. Nowadays most of the countries of the world suffer from the trade deficit when they trade with China.

In the case of the US, the trade deficit with China rose to an alarmingly high rate of 378 US billion dollars in 2018 and it became one of the serious political issues in the USA. To resolve this US under President Donald Trump's leadership imposed a huge amount of tariffs on Chinese goods imports. When China retaliated this, the US again imposed more taxes and this game of tit-for-tat became a full-fledged trade crisis between the two countries popularly termed as the US-China trade war.

Amid all these issues the origin and spread of Covid-19 from China became like ‘adding salt to injury’ to the USA, as the US in a short time became the worst suffered country from Corona-virus. At present, the US Covid-19 cases crossed the mark of 3.83 million and nearing the 4 million mark and the US considers the ignorance and active concealment of facts by China regarding the pandemic as the main cause of such pathetic conditions in the US and all over the world. Even that was not the end of the anti- Chinese sentiments in the US or even in the world as, amid all these events, China started a new tactic of aggression and evoking false nationalism among its citizens that seem to be a bizarre way of handling international relations. Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, with the countries that were close allies of the US like Japan, Philippines, South Korea, India, Vietnam, etc also deteriorated the US-China relations as never before.


It is obvious that Iran was in bad terms with the USA for decades but on the other hand, China and Iran shared a long historical cultural and economic relation since as long as 200 BC. But the present case of Iran nearing China also had a different major aspect i.e. countering the USA. Both China and Iran have a common problem i.e. the US and both wanted to counter the US. Since the 2000s, China has emerged as the largest trading partner of Iran. This was the same period when China entered WTO and was emerging as the export capital of the world and in this period only the Iran Nuclear Program came to the sight of the world. This time has proved to be a very significant time for the China-Iran relations because as the US-Iran relations begin to fall apart due to the Iran Nuclear Program at the same time the Iran-China relations became more and more robust as China gradually emerged as the largest trading partner of Iran.

Then, there followed a series of events that brought Iran more and more close to China like when the USA sanctioned Iranian oil and also threatened other countries by sanctions to not to buy oil from Iran, China continued to buy oil from Iran while others including India refrained from doing so. China also committed itself to support Iran economically by various investments, loans, and joint programs developments, for example, china extended loan of 10 billion dollars to Chinese companies for the infrastructure development in Iran, China and Iran also signed a massive 400 billion US dollars deal to invest in Iran by China over the period of 25 years. This has marked the new begging of Iran-China relations.


There has been an adage in the international relations that no countries ever have a permanent ally or enemy, but only the permanent interests. This principle applies well to the case of Iran. But when the large countries like the US, China, Iran grow more and more aggressive and hostile to each other, the whole of the world suffers from the subsequent instability and bipolarity and this is harmful not only for the individual countries but the world as a whole. So rather than fighting among themselves, all the countries must look for peaceful co-existence and the development of humanity as a whole.


1. Kimberly Dozier and John Walcott, “After Retaliation, Iran’s 40-Year Conflict with the US likely to return to the shadows”, TIME, (08 jAn/2020), https://time.com/5761897/us-iran-conflict-continues/.

2. “US-Iran relations: A brief history”, BBC NEWS, (06/jAN/2020), https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-24316661.

3. “What is the US-China trade war? How it started and what is inside the phase one deal”, South China Morning Post, (13/apr/2020), https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3078745/what-us-china-trade-war-how-it-started-and-what-inside-phase.

4. Alex Vatanka, “China’s great game in Iran”, FP, (05/sep/2019), https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/09/05/chinas-great-game-in-iran/.

5. Farnaz Fassihi and Steven Lee Myers, “Defying U.S., China, and Iran Trade and Military Partnership”, The New York Times, (11/july/2020), https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/11/world/asia/china-iran-trade-military-deal.html.


This blog has been authored by Ratnesh Dixit who is a 2nd Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Patiala.