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Competing Visions of Dealing with the Iranian Nuclear Programme: Challenges for EU-Chinese Political Relations under New Leaderships

Moritz Pieper

In its foreign policy toward the Iranian nuclear programme, China is unwilling to join the harsh anti-Iran rhetoric of the US and the EU3. China has averted the imposition of sanctions and only abstained from its veto power as permanent UNSC member after considerable diplomatic persuasion by 'the West'. Beijing was cautious not to spoil its image as a 'responsible Great Power' by walking a diplomatic tightrope in balancing a pragmatic-commercial approach to business in Iran and mollifying Western security concerns related to the Iranian nuclear programme, following the tradition of Deng Xiaoping's doctrine of 'maintaining a low profile'. Increasingly, however, China conveys a more assertive foreign policy and is no longer hiding its strategic interests. This paper argues that with the EU3 being at the forefront of nuclear diplomacy with Iran, EU strategic engagement and dialogue with China's new Leadership under Xi Jinping will be critical in finding a long-term solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis and be conducive to EU-Chinese political relations on various other fronts. Failure to do so will decrease the EU's importance for China's security and foreign policy toward the region and cement the emergence of competing and potentially exclusionary visions of transnational security cultures.

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