Beyond Geopolitics: A Geoeconomic Perspective of China-Iran Belt and Road Initiative Relations - Seyedashkan MADANI


Seyedashkan MADANI* 

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the largest regional development project in the history of global development. It is estimated that Chinese companies will invest up to $1.2 trillion in infrastructure development in Asia and elsewhere in the coming years. However, there are many obstacles to the successful implementation of this initiative in the host countries, including geographical factors, local culture, geopolitical contestation, public attitudes, institutional capacity, and governance quality. These challenges can substantially diminish the coherence of the BRI and prevent its effective implementation. This study aims to develop an analytical framework for exploring the risks associated with and challenges of executing BRI projects in Iran. To this end, all risks are categorized into three broad groups: operational, financial, and geopolitical. The results show that Iran generally faces many internal and external challenges in attracting foreign investment. The critical question is: Why is Iran receiving substantial investment from Chinese companies despite its unfavorable business environment? A geoeconomic approach is used to develop a theoretical framework to explain Iran-China BRI relations. In this context, Iran’s geoeconomic significance is the main factor encouraging the flow of Chinese investment into the country. The BRI comprises mostly functional cooperation between China and countries along the Silk Road based on a specific geospatial environment. Iran’s geospatial environment encourages Chinese investments in infrastructure, which is the main content of functional cooperation.

Keywords:  Belt and Road Initiative, geospatial environment, risk assessment, geoeconomic

   Ph.D. Student, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, School of International and Public Affairs.