Source: Global Times Published: 2018-1-2
The mass demonstrations in Iran will not affect the Belt and Road Initiative in the region, but serve as a reminder that robust economic development could prevent "overseas hostile forces" from toppling a sovereign government, Chinese experts said.
Demonstrations continued for a sixth day, and the casualties are increasing. Iranian protesters attacked police stations late on Monday night. Some 20 deaths have been reported in the worst wave of unrest in the country since 2009.
"The key reason for the unrest is the economy and people`s livelihood, which is a long-standing problem," said Hua Liming, former Chinese ambassador to Iran.
In recent years, Iran has spent too many resources on expanding its strategic influence in the Middle East, to countries such as Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, said Hua. "For the country, these are great victories. But the people, especially the youth, are dissatisfied, as they feel the country is wasting resources to fight for regional hegemony rather than improving the economy," Hua continued.
"If a country can satisfy its people by effectively developing the economy and improving people`s livelihood, hostile foreign forces won`t have any chance of creating problems to shake its governance."
"China hopes Iran can maintain stability and achieve development," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Tuesday.
Iran`s opponents and rivals, such as the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia, are happy to see the country in domestic unrest, said Hua.
The US is expecting the unrest will overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran. US President Donald Trump wrote on his Twitter account on Sunday that "The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food and freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. Time for change!"
Despite the large scale of Iran`s ongoing protests, Chinese experts said they are unlikely to topple the Iranian administration or develop into a huge geopolitical crisis.
China doesn`t need to worry that the protests will affect the development of the Belt and Road Initiative in the region, said Li Shaoxian, head of the Arab research institute at Ningxia University.
Hua told the Global Times that the current situation will not overturn Iran`s political system. Western media have exaggerated the situation to some extent and Iran`s unrest in 2009 was much worse than this time, he said.
"The Iranian people hold high expectations for the Iranian nuclear deal, but the reality in recent years has failed them, and this is the background of the incident. The Iranian government is facing a serious challenge, and it might make an adjustment to its policy to respond to its people," Hua said.
Opportunity for problem-solving
In the capital Tehran, and holy cities of Mashhad, Qom, Isfahan, and Qazvin, people took to the streets to protest the mismanagement of the economy by President Hassan Rouhani`s administration, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Provincial officials said the gatherings were illegal, calling for the police to "deal with them." On Wednesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called on the government to earnestly tackle the economic problems of the country.
President Rouhani said on Monday that protests are actually an opportunity to notice the problems and find solutions for them, the Tehran Times reported on Monday.
Hua Liming is a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.