Between 2005 and 2007, Iranian trade with China doubled to US$20 billion. On September 30, 2007, the Chinese ambassador to Tehran said, "China will never do anything against Iran's interests." With the increase of relations between Beijing and Tehran, so, too, have U.S. policy concerns grown. Despite that, the literature on Sino-Iranian relations has been sparse until now.
To fill the gap, Garver, a China scholar at the Georgia Institute of Technology, puts together an impressive exploration of Sino-Iranian relations in China and Iran. Unfortunately, he breezes through twenty centuries of pre-modern Sino-Iranian relations in just eight pages, depriving the reader of context for the recent flourishing. Garver may be too cynical when he suggests that the Chinese and Iranian emphasis on their earlier ties is convenient revisionism for there does exist a rich Persian literature—yet to be translated into any Western language—discussing earlier generations of ties with China.
Garver's focus begins in 1971 when the People's Republic of China established relations with Iran. He then traces the ebb and flow of contacts through China's liberalization and Iran's Islamic Revolution. Throughout much of the 1990s, Tehran and Beijing found common ground in an "anti-[U.S.] hegemony partnership." Separate chapters examine the Iranian approach to China's Muslim Uighur population; Chinese assistance to Iran's nuclear program; and Sino-Iranian energy cooperation.
China and Iran is straightforward, well-indexed, and well-sourced, if a bit dry. Garver does not offer earthshaking analysis, but for any policy practitioner wishing to understand the context of the current Sino-Iranian embrace, China and Iran offers a handy, reliable resource.