A picture of Iranian revolutionary guard Gen. Qaseem Soleimani is seen in an electronic store on January 5, 2020 in downtown Tehran, Iran.
Majid Saeedi | Getty Images
Beijing is urging calm as geopolitical tensions escalate in the Middle East, a region that China depends on heavily for oil.
On Saturday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi “took a telephone call” from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, according to an English-language statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry website. The comments followed news late last week that Iran’s top commander, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad.
“China opposes the use of force in international relations,” Yi said, according to the online posting. “Military means will lead nowhere. Maximum pressure won’t work either. China urges the U.S. to seek resolutions through dialogue instead of abusing force.”
“China will continue to uphold an objective and just position and play a constructive role in safeguarding peace and security in the Gulf region of the Middle East,“ Yi added.
The call came days after Zarif met Yi in Beijing on Dec. 31, the Iranian minister’s fourth visit to China for that year, according to China’s Foreign Ministry website.
Iranian leaders have vowed to retaliate against the U.S. During Saturday’s call, Zarif said he “hopes China can play an important role in preventing escalation of regional tensions,” according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry statement.
“If the US and Iran engage in war, it would do more harm than good to China,” China’s state-owned tabloid Global Times said in an English-language editorial published on Sunday.
“If there is serious chaos in the Middle East, the US would indeed be more stuck in the region and distracted,” the article added. “But Chinese purchases of oil from the Middle East lead the world by volume, which means China is far more dependent on the region’s oil than the US. China also has large investments in Iran, Iraq and many other Middle Eastern countries already linked to China’s economic interests.”
Shares of state-owned energy giants PetroChina and Sinopec rose 5% and 2%, respectively, in Monday afternoon trading. Oil prices rose more than 2%, with Brent crude topping $70 a barrel.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C., also responded to the news of the U.S. drone strike by issuing a safety warning on Sunday. The Chinese-language alert reminded Chinese citizens in America to be vigilant and avoid public places.
A separate Global Times editorial published Sunday emphasized that China is able to defend itself from drone attacks, contrary to Chinese netizens’ fears that targeted strikes from drones could one day threaten the country.
“China itself is a top player in drone operation and development,” the editorial said, pointing out that high tech China-made drones just made their debut at the National Day military parade in October last year.
— CNBC’s Grace Shao contributed to this report.