moving_slightly_closer - Asia-Pacific Policy Papers Series...

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Asia-Pacific Policy Papers Series Moving (Slightly) Closer to Iran China’s Shifting Calculus for Managing Its “Persian Gulf Dilemma” By John Garver, Flynt Leverett, and Hillary Mann Leverett Johns Hopkins University The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies tel. 202-663-5812 email: reischauer@jhu.edu
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M OVING (S LIGHTLY ) C LOSER T O I RAN : China’s Shifting Calculus For Managing Its “Persian Gulf Dilemma” John Garver, Flynt Leverett, and Hillary Mann Leverett * Beijing’s struggle to balance its interest in maximizing Chinese access to Iran’s hydrocarbon resources against its interest in preserving good relations—and, above all, avoiding conflict—with the United States is, in many ways, the quintessential manifestation of China’s Persian Gulf dilemma. China’s leaders have been careful not to let their country’s developing ties to the Islamic Republic be perceived in Washington as a direct Over the past quarter century, China has been challenged to balance a major interest in maintaining comity with the United States against its efforts to develop multi-dimensional cooperative relations with important countries in the Persian Gulf—including countries in policy conflict with Washington. This “Persian Gulf dilemma” in China’s foreign policy first took shape—and has challenged decision-makers in Beijing most consistently—with regard to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Over the years, the Islamic Republic has emerged as the de facto leader of regional resistance to America’s longstanding hegemonic position in the Gulf and the Middle East more broadly. As tension between Washington and Tehran has risen, U.S. demands on Beijing to cooperate with U.S. efforts to isolate and press the Islamic Republic have mounted. But, since the mid 1990s, China has developed an increasingly strategic energy relationship with Iran, reinforced by a variety of economic and technological cooperation agreements. And Tehran, for its part, has made China the focus of an emerging “Eastern orientation” in Iranian foreign policy. John Garver is professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Flynt Leverett directs the New America Foundation’s Iran Project and teaches international affairs at Pennsylvania State University. Hillary Mann Leverett is CEO of Strategic Energy and Global Analysis (STRATEGA), LLC, a political risk consultancy. The authors are grateful to Ben Katcher for outstanding research assistance.
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2 challenge to America’s hegemonic position in the Gulf. In coming years, China’s foreign policy will almost certainly continue trying to balance between the two horns of the country’s Persian Gulf dilemma. The prospective costs of coming down clearly on Washington’s side or Tehran’s are simply too great. But, while China will continue to avoid direct challenges to American hegemony in the Gulf, recent developments in Sino-Iranian energy relations indicate that governmental and corporate decision-makers in
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moving_slightly_closer - Asia-Pacific Policy Papers Series...

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