China’s Diplomatic Leadership in the Middle East: Mediating Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia

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Author, Date of the post, WMO Conflict Insight, Title of the post,  ISSN: 2628-6998, 

In a world where conflict seems to be the norm, China has been quietly working behind the scenes to promote cooperation and peace through its approach to diplomacy. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East, where China has successfully mediated tensions between two arch-rivals – Iran and Saudi Arabia – using a win-win approach to conflict resolution. As the world grapples with the challenges of the 21st century, China’s model of non-interventionism and respect for sovereignty may offer the blueprint for building a global community with a shared future.

China’s concept of “building a global community with a shared future” through win-win cooperation has gained traction in recent years. On March 10, 2023, China successfully mediated detente between two arch-rivals in the Middle East – Iran and Saudi Arabia.[1] The success of Chinese diplomacy in this context starkly contrasts with the strategic coercion used by the US/NATO countries since the advent of the Cold War, which has led to numerous conflicts, interventions, and regime changes, causing instability, resentment, and distrust towards the collective West.[2]

China’s approach to international relations is guided by the principle of non-interventionism and respect for sovereignty, allowing the most significant and rising Asian power to play a constructive role in regional conflicts without taking sides or imposing its own agenda.[3] Instead, China has emphasized dialogue and cooperation, seeking common ground and promoting mutual benefits for the parties involved. This approach has been effective in the case of Iran and Saudi Arabia, where China has worked hard to facilitate communication and reduce tensions between the two countries, culminating in a detente greeted with enthusiasm across the Middle East region.[4]

China’s success in mediating the detente between Iran and Saudi Arabia is part of a broader trend of Chinese diplomacy, emphasizing win-win cooperation and mutual benefit.[5] China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to build infrastructure and promote economic development across Asia, Europe, and Africa, is another example of how China is seeking to promote connectivity and cooperation on a global scale.[6]

China’s approach to international relations will likely gain more traction in the coming years as the global power balance continues to shift, with China emerging as a major player on the world stage.[7] In his book, “Contemporary China’s Diplomacy,” Zhang Qingmin argues that China’s approach to international relations is based on a distinct set of principles and values prioritizing cooperation, mutual benefit, and respect for diversity.[8] According to Qingmin, this approach has effectively promoted stability and cooperation in the region and beyond and offers a promising model for the future of international relations.

In conclusion, China’s concept of “building a global community with a shared future” through win-win cooperation has successfully mediated detente between Iran and Saudi Arabia, demonstrating the effectiveness of Chinese diplomacy and highlighting the potential for a new approach to international relations in the 21st century. The need for a more constructive and cooperative approach to diplomacy has become more urgent as the world becomes more interconnected and interdependent. China’s Saudi-Iranian mediation success offers a model for achieving this. Its emphasis on mutual benefit, respect for sovereignty, and non-interventionism offers a promising vision for the future of peace and cooperation oriented-diplomacy as a vital tool in international relations.

[1] China Daily. “Riyadh-Teheran detente proves China’s peace diplomacy.” (2023). Retrieved from

[2] Sachs, J. D. (2021). A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American Exceptionalism – Jeffrey Sachs, YouTube video. Retrieved from

[3] Turin, D. R. (2010). “The Beijing Consensus: China’s Alternative Development Model.” Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse2(01). Retrieved from

[4] Osama Al-Sharif. “Saudi Arabia-Iran detente is good news for a troubled region.” Arab News (March 14, 2023). Retrieved from

[5] China Daily. “China’s diplomacy enters a new era.” (2019). Retrieved from

[6] The Belt and Road Initiative. (2023). Retrieved from

[7] Loong Yu Au interviewed by Ashley Smith. “China’s rise as a world power.” (2019). International Socialist Review (ISR), Issue 112, Spring 2019. Retrieved from

[8] Qingmin, Z. (2019). Contemporary China’s Diplomacy. Routledge.


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