Following the inking of the Iranian nuclear deal, Beijing has bolstered its economic and political ties with Tehran and with good reason: Iran is not only a prospective supplier of oil and natural gas but also the key geostrategic region for the China-led New Silk Road project.
"Iran is the key link of the "Silk Road" land route to Europe, as it is connected to China by a railway through Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan," Sarkis Tsaturyan, a Russian-Armenian historian and international policy analyst, writes in his latest report for Regnum.
Indian scholar and strategic affairs consultant Debalina Ghoshal echoes Tsaturyan's stance in her opinion piece for YaleGlobal Online.
She points to the fact that since the signing of the Iranian nuclear deal, Beijing is emerging as a principal beneficiary of the agreement.
While the West is still reluctant to finance deals with Iran out of fear of violating sanctions which remain in place, China has jumped at the opportunity to outperform its Western competitors.
According to the scholar, Middle Eastern markets are essential for Beijing's New Silk Road initiative to create a network of manufacturing and logistics centers in Central Asia and Europe.
"China's demand for oil imports is expected to grow from 6 million barrels per day to 13 million by 2035, and Iran, ranked fourth in the world in proven oil reserves and second in terms of natural gas reserves, is considered a reliable supplier," she underscores.
Ghoshal points to the fact that China's interest in Iran goes "beyond its energy resources."
"It [China] has a keen interest in Iran's geostrategic location, bordering both the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. The location enables China to carry out the One Belt One Road agenda," the Indian scholar emphasizes.
Indeed, China's European pivot is no less important than the Middle Eastern one.
"The ultimate prize in the Silk Road plan — also known in China as the 'One Belt, One Road' initiative — is someplace else: Europe," Keith Johnson of Foreign Policy magazine wrote in early June, explaining that the EU bloc represents a bigger and richer market for Beijing than emerging economies along the Road.
Meanwhile, the Transcaucasia region has recently become a "battleground" for the US and China, Tsaturyan adds.
Indeed, while Washington tries to exert its influence on Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan — the former Soviet Republics — Beijing and Tehran are engaging the nations' interest in the China-led project.
The analyst remarks, that in this context, Iran's political maneuvers in Armenia and Azerbaijan have acquired a new meaning.
On the other hand, Iran has abolished its visa regime with Armenia, prompting Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to raise the issue of a new transport corridor between the Persian Gulf and the Black Sea, which would connect Iran, Armenia, Georgia and Bulgaria, Tsaturyan points out, citing Focus News.
Regardless of Washington's displeasure, China and its important Middle Eastern ally Iran are pushing ahead with their new infrastructural projects, aimed at unifying the Eurasian trade space.
And still, when it comes to Caucasus and Transcaucasia, it is Russia which can lend its helping hand to Beijing and Tehran.