Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Speaks at Peking University
On December 6, 2016 at Peking University, the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, gave a talk on Iran-China Cooperation: Utilizing Opportunities and Countering Regional and International Challenges.
Before beginning his remarks, Mr. Zariff expressed his happiness in being in China, a country with which Iran has developed a comprehensive strategic partnership, including a historic visit by President Xi to Iran in January, which was the first trip by a Chinese president to Iran in 14 years.
The Hegemonic Illusion
To begin his speech, Mr. Zariff pointed out the world is in a transitional phase, and that in the transitional phase, the role of individual actors has become more prominent as opposed to the old hegemonic system that was dominated by the two superpowers. In the current transitional phase, Mr. Zariff argued that the multiplicity of actors makes it impossible to have a hegemony. He reiterated that nation states’ illusion of the possibility of becoming a hegemon can lead to the demise of societies and nations as it has done in the past from wars to terrorism and extremism. He stressed that hegemonic tendencies no longer succeed or apply to international relations.
Mr. Zariff explained China’s importance in the global scene, and he said China has a crucial role in shaping the future of the world, and he emphasized that cooperation between China and Iran can bring about a better future.
Opportunities for China-Iran Relations
Mr. Zariff pointed out the limitless possibilities for China-Iran relations in the fields of education, politics, economics, science and technology, and anti-terrorism efforts. On education, he mentioned that there are abundant opportunities for cooperation between Iranian and Chinese universities, including exchange programs between Chinese and Iranian schools. He noted that China, as one of the world’s leaders in the nanotechnology field, creates opportunities for cooperation between the two countries through joint ventures and joint research.
Tackling Global Issues Through Positive-Sum Games: Inclusion Not Exclusion
Mr. Zariff pointed out that a zero-sum game approach can only lead to negative sum outcomes and a loss by all. He further argued against the erroneous assumption that one can have security at the expense of others’ security and prosper while others are deprived of prosperity. In the same line of reasoning, Mr. Zariff explained that “we cannot protect the environment when everyone else’s environment is in the process of degradation.” In security, he noted that just like contagious diseases can no longer be contained in one part of the world, the same is true of insecurity, terrorism, and extremism, which cannot be contained in one locality.
If security is a global good, insecurity, extremism, and terrorism have become a global bad.
Mr. Zariff emphasized that “if security is a global good, insecurity, extremism, and terrorism have become a global bad.” This means that it is important to start looking at global issues from a non-zero sum perspective. He further explained that it is vital to have dialogues with each other and to try and see the world from other perspectives.
Mr. Zariff lauded President Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which reflects the Chinese global approach that is focused on positive sum games by emphasizing inclusion and cooperation between many actors.
“We are in the same boat in turbulent waters. We either sail together or sink together”
Mr. Zariff concluded that in our current global society, coalition building no longer works. Instead, he argued that we need to build networks of connectivity, cooperation, common use, common objectives, and service to our common humanity. He emphasized that these networks need to “recognize that we are in the same boat in turbulent water. And we either sail together or sink together.”