On Saturday (Jan. 23) Chinese president Xi Jinping was in Tehran signing deals with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani. International sanctions on Iran were recently lifted after it agreed to narrow the scope of its nuclear activities, and Xi is one of the first world leaders to pay a visit since then.
The leaders signed 17 agreements on economic and technological cooperation, including one on nuclear energy. Rouhani said Tehran plans to boots trade with China from $52 billion in 2014 to $600 billion in the next 10 years.
The nations confirmed they will cooperate on Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which envisions a vast land network connecting China, Europe, the Middle East, west Asia, and Southeast Asia. This will include China undertaking development of a high-speed railway in Iran linking Tehran to Mashhad in Iran’s northeast (the nation’s second-largest city). China agreed to give financial aid for the rail project.
China is already Iran’s largest trade partner, and the biggest buyer of its oil. Even before the sanctions were lifted, it had been at work on other projects in the country, including a new freeway linking Tehran to cities along the Caspian Sea.
Xi also met with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who criticized the US as “not honest” in its fight against terrorism in the Middle East, and said China was a more natural ally for Iran. “Iranians never trusted the West… That’s why Tehran seeks cooperation with more independent countries (like China),” the Ayatollah said.