China and the Iran Nuclear Deal

Iran-ChinaBy Roncevert Ganan Almond

The Diplomat

On January 1, 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delivered its report to the United Nations Security Council confirming that Iran had taken a series of nuclear-related actions and transparency measures pursuant to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The advent of so-called “Implementation Day” under the JCPOA triggered the lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program. The E3/EU+3 (China, France Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, with the High Representative of the European Union) and Iran concluded the JCPOA on July 14, 2015. Subsequently, the UN Security Council endorsed the JCPOA through the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2231 on July 20, 2015.

Given its role in the Security Council and E3/EU+3 (also referred to as the “P5+1”), China was critical to the accomplishment of this landmark initiative, which has implications for nonproliferation and international security. Additionally, as the world’s second largest economy and the largest export destination for Iranian oil, China serves as a critical lifeline to the Iranian economy and, thus, the stability of the Iranian regime. Beijing’s objection or non-participation would effectively undermine international efforts to sanction or isolate Tehran. This has been aptly demonstrated by Chinese behavior in relation to other Western-led efforts targeting “rogue” regimes.

Therefore, China’s assent and participation in the JCPOA and Resolution 2231 is a notable precedent in diplomatic efforts to combat nuclear proliferation and other issues of global governance. Indeed, the Iran nuclear deal offers significant and sobering lessons in what may be called “multilateralism with Chinese characteristics.”

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Picture: Official website of Ali Khamenei, Supreme leader of Iran [CC BY 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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