For starters, this is a deal between two dishonest regimes that pride themselves on propaganda. The scale and feasibility of the deal deserve healthy skepticism. We should doubt Beijing’s capacity to fund $400 billion of Iranian infrastructure. To put it in perspective, China has invested less than $27 billion in Iran in the past 15 years—and that was before Covid-19 hit China’s economy. At best, this deal is a framework for cooperation.
The purported deal also faces popular outrage among the Iranian people, who have zero interest in their country becoming a Chinese client state. Speculation is swirling that the deal includes oil concessions to Chinese companies, basing rights for China’s military, and long-term leases of Iranian islands—all entirely believable given China’s long history of predatory, neo-imperial deals. China’s proposed military support to Iran, which both countries are keeping under wraps, may already violate the United Nations arms embargo. The Iranian regime’s crisis of legitimacy with its people will only worsen if the deal moves forward.