Shahram Akbarzadeh and Mahmoud Pargoo
Dr. Akbarzadeh is a research professor and convenor, Middle East Studies Forum, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, Australia. Dr. Pargoo is associate research fellow, Middle East Studies Forum, Alfred Deakin Institute.
In the last decade, China's rapid economic growth has become a hot topic for politicians and intellectuals in Iran. Iranian views on China and its development model are ambiguous and contradictory, despite exponential growth in trade between the two countries. Three broad views have emerged in Iran about the Chinese way of progress. The pragmatic moderates advocate rapid economic development while keeping tight political control, which is broadly known as the China model. Two other political factions have ambivalent views on China. Hardliners focus on the Islamic-Iranian Model of Progress but also admire some aspects of China's policies, especially its opposition to unilateralism in international affairs. Political reforms and social freedom are central to reformists’ views. On this ground, reformists are uncomfortable with the China model. During the Covid-19 pandemic, China's aid diplomacy in Iran and critical remarks by an Iranian health authority about China provided a pretext for a more open debate about Sino–Iranian relations, in general, and the China model, in particular. The range of views expressed on the matter confirms our assessment that there is a wide gap between political camps in relation to the applicability of the China model to Iran.
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