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How Important Is China for the Iran-Saudi Arabia Deal?

Saudi Arabia and Iran were bitter rivals for decades, fighting each other for multiple reasons. But on March 10, 2023, Saudi Arabia and Iran decided to re-establish their diplomatic ties and opened their embassies for each other in May 2023. China played a vital role in that deal as it happened after four days of secret talks in Beijing. So, why did China play the role of a broker in the Saudi-Iran conflict? How important is China for the Saudi-Iran deal? Discover the story behind this sudden turn of events in this article.

The Saudi-Iran deal was a turning point for the long-lasting conflict between the two Islamic nations. These countries have been involved in a protracted geopolitical tug-of-war with important consequences for the world and the region. 

China has been rapidly advancing its position on the international political scene in recent years. The face of international relations is changing as a result of its expanding influence, particularly in places like the Middle East. Playing the role of a broker in this deal has been beneficial for China in several ways. 

Historical Context of Saudi-Iran Conflict

The Saudi Arabia and Iran conflict started after the 1979 resolution and became only worse until 2023. Both countries have tried to compete for influence and power in the Middle East for decades. It has been a long-lasting and complex conflict that has incorporated not only political maneuvering but also religious and cultural aspects.

The Saudi Arabia and Iran rivalry started for several reasons. The main reason for their differences was their competition in the interpretations of Islam. Saudi Arabia supports Sunni Islam while Iran supports Shia Islam. This rivalry even led to proxy wars and became a tension for the whole region. 

Saudi Arabia and Iran have made various attempts over the years to eradicate the conflict but it went all in vain until China stepped in and helped them sign an agreement. What was in it for China in that deal? The next section will uncover the whole story behind this deal. 

Also read: Why Is China Losing the Microchip War?

China’s Growing Influence in the Middle East

China has played a major role in the international forum for the last decade. Its economic expansion, military prowess, and diplomatic aggressiveness have helped it go from being a fairly isolated country to a major player in world politics. The geopolitical power structure has changed as a result of this development, and comprehending China’s participation in the Saudi-Iran Deal is essential to appreciating its significance.

China has found a significant interest in Middle Eastern countries. This is significantly due to its vast energy resources, as China relies heavily on oil and gas imports. China has aimed to forge tighter connections with Middle Eastern countries, particularly those with large hydrocarbon reserves, to safeguard its energy supply. The Middle East also provides an expanding market for Chinese investments and exports.

The Belt and Road Initiative, also known as BRI, is one of China’s most extensive international policy initiatives. Through a network of trade routes, this enormous infrastructural and economic development project aspires to connect China to Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world. BRI initiatives have gained traction in the Middle East, supporting infrastructural building and economic expansion. The BRI’s impact on the area has repercussions for trade, transportation, and political power, among other things. 

Brief Understanding of the Saudi-Iran Rivalry

There is an old saying in the arab world that states “Choose your neighbor before the house, a

bad neighbor can be a misfortune, a good one a blessing”. Unfortunately in geopolitics, one does not get to make this choice. One does not get to choose its neighbor. They have to find a way to live with each other. However, Saudi Arabia and Iran have a long history of rivalry with each other. Several reasons played their role in the bitter rivalry. 

One can track the Saudi-Iran rivalry to its historical roots. The major reason for this conflict was religious differences. Other causes of the Saudi-Iran rivalry were:

  • Geopolitical ambitions
  • Proxy Wars
  • Economic Factors
  • Ideological Differences
  • International Mediation and Relations

To read more about the Saudi-Iran rivalry, read this article: Iran and Saudi Arabia Conflict Reason

The Saudi-Iran Deal (2023)

March 10, 2023, was a historic date in the Saudi-Iran conflict after seven years of severing relations. By May 2023, the regional rivals agreed to reopen their embassies in Tehran and Riyadh. The agreement, mediated by China, also saw the execution of a 1998 agreement to improve trade, investment, technology, and cultural cooperation as well as a 2001 security cooperation agreement. The Islamic Republic and the Gulf kingdom reaffirmed their adherence to “non-interference in internal affairs” and “respect for the sovereignty of states.” The action signaled a notable de-escalation of the situation. The two nations have been at odds over regional conflicts for many years, particularly those involving Yemen and Syria.

Iranian and Saudi delegations arrived in Beijing between March 6 and March 10 and held secret talks with China. The foreign minister of China stated that “both sides have demonstrated sincerity.” The secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Ali Shamkhani said that this deal would be pivotal to the growth of regional stability and security of both nations. 

The agreement, according to Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al Saud was “evidence of our common desire to solve [issues] through talks and dialogue.” The two nations had not, however, “reached a resolution to all outstanding differences.”

Why Is China Interested in the Saudi-Iran Deal? 

China is the second biggest economy in the world, making it the most influential country in the Middle East. China saw a lot of benefits in the reunification of Saudi Arabia and Iran. It wanted to achieve its economic and geopolitical ambitions, and for that, it wanted the Middle East to become a stable region. The peaceful restoration of diplomatic ties between the two countries would align with China’s broader foreign policy principles of diplomacy.

1) Energy Considerations

The Saudi-Iran agreement poses a variety of economic and energy benefits for China. The Middle East is an essential source of China’s energy supply, which makes it the largest oil importer in the world. The ongoing flow of oil, which is necessary for China’s economic progress, is ensured by a stable Middle East. The Saudi-Iran agreement may lower China’s risk of supply interruptions and establish a more stable energy environment. A stable Middle East can promote business possibilities and trade, which is beneficial for China’s export-oriented economy.

Also read: Why China Is Not In G7?

2) Regional Stability

China maintains a consistent stance on regional stability, highlighting the significance of political discussion and peaceful dispute settlement. For China’s investments and infrastructure projects in the Middle East, especially those funded by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), stability is essential. Chinese investments are less at risk when the Middle East is stable and secure, and their compatriots who are employed there are safe. China’s advocacy for regional stability is consistent with its larger objective of growing its diplomatic influence and playing a responsible role in the world. As a result, China actively backs initiatives that promote security and stability in the Middle East, such as the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have both been major players in several Middle Eastern regional conflicts. Their backing of rival forces has helped conflicts in places like Yemen, Syria, and Iraq to worsen. Their rivalry is the main cause of regional problems since it has increased regional tensions and promoted instability.

The deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran has the potential to improve regional stability by lowering both countries’ involvement in proxy wars. By settling their conflict appropriately, they might then work together to address regional issues like terrorism and political instability. Also, it might lead to a more balanced dynamic of regional power, encouraging other countries to engage in communication and collaboration rather than escalating war.

3) Economic Implications

China’s participation in the Saudi-Iran negotiations goes beyond its diplomatic mission. It is a major economic force and has facilitated these negotiations by using its financial influence as a crucial instrument. Different investments made by China in Saudi Arabia and Iran have led to the development of economic ties. For instance, China has worked on infrastructure and energy agreements in both nations, establishing itself as an important trading partner. China has leverage and influence thanks to these economic links when it comes to fostering communication between the two countries.

China has taken a proactive stance in the Saudi-Iran negotiations as a mediator and facilitator. China is well-suited to play a role in bridging the gap between two opposing countries given its economic interests. China acts as a neutral party by utilizing its economic connections and volunteering to mediate, providing a forum for discussion and dispute settlement. 

Also read: What Is the Motive of China Behind Its Interest in Taiwan?

4) Geopolitical Implications

The Saudi-Iran agreement will have a significant impact on the Middle East. It may help maintain regional peace by lowering the likelihood of proxy wars and regional clashes. A more safe and prosperous Middle East would result from it by encouraging cooperation on matters like counterterrorism and refugee management. Instead, if the agreement fails or falls through, it might worsen already-existing issues and destabilize the region even more, making it more prone to power struggles and violent conflict.

The Saudi-Iran agreement has a big impact on the balance of power in the world. Success in the peace process would probably reduce the influence of foreign nations, especially the US and Russia. It might put a strain on their powerful positions in the area and alter relationships. With its increasing influence, China will become a key participant in regional and international affairs, further upsetting conventional power systems. The global power balance may be affected more broadly by this change.


China played the role of a broker in the Saudi-Iran deal which took the world by surprise. A lot of major nations like the US tried to stop this rivalry but a secret meeting from March 6 to March 10, 2023, in Beijing was enough to do so. 

Saudi Arabia and Iran tried to resume their diplomatic ties for decades but they failed to do it. They held three years of talks in Iraq and Oman starting in April 2020, which means that the process was going on for a long time. In February 2023, XI Jinping’s visit to Saudi Arabia and President Ibrahimraisi’s visit to China elevated those talks from a regional forum to a global forum. China acted as the host of the finalization of this process. 

China has a lot of reasons for helping the two nations re-establish their diplomatic ties, aligning with its economic and geopolitical interests in the Middle East and on the global stage. Regional stability, economic opportunities, and diplomatic influence are some of the main reasons for China’s involvement. China is smart enough to acknowledge the situation in the Middle East. It is using both nations to establish its diplomatic influence and grow its economy. 

Saudi Arabia and Iran’s agreement could prove to be beneficial for both countries as well as China. After years of fighting, signing this agreement has caused stability in the region, creating new pathways to their economic growth. 

Also read: The Rise of China in the Solar Industry: A Global Revolution


What Is the Role of China in the Saudi-Iran Deal?

As a mediator and facilitator in the Saudi-Iran Deal, China uses its economic relationships with both countries to encourage diplomatic engagement. China’s participation fosters understanding, eases tensions in the region, and is consistent with its goals for regional stability and energy security. It places China in a pivotal position to reshape Middle Eastern geopolitics and international diplomacy.

What Is the Saudi Arabia-Iran Peace Deal With China?

What Is the Role of China in the Saudi-Iran Deal?
As a mediator and facilitator in the Saudi-Iran Deal, China uses its economic relationships with both countries to encourage diplomatic engagement. China’s participation fosters understanding, eases tensions in the region, and is consistent with its goals for regional stability and energy security. It places China in a pivotal position to reshape Middle Eastern geopolitics and international diplomacy.

Why Is China Helping Iran?

The main reason for China’s assistance to Iran is economic stability. Iran is an important supplier of natural gas and oil, which is essential for China’s energy security. China gains access to these resources, improves commercial connections, and expands its geopolitical power in the region by backing Iran.
Through the supply of equipment and technology, China has helped advance Iran’s nuclear program. The Iranian government has been protected from the consequences of international sanctions by China’s economic links to Iran.

What Is the Role of China in Saudi Arabia?

China and Saudi Arabia are close and strategic allies. As part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), they have increased their cooperation in the energy and finance sectors and signed numerous agreements in a variety of fields.
China has a wide range of responsibilities in Saudi Arabia. It first secures a vital energy source by becoming a significant importer of Saudi oil.
Second, China participates in economic cooperation by funding infrastructure developments in Saudi Arabia and promoting trade connections. Third, China promotes diplomatic resolutions to regional disputes, especially those involving Saudi Arabia. Last, but not least, it aims to strengthen political and strategic ties with Saudi Arabia to further China’s Belt and Road Initiative and expand its influence in the Middle East.

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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