Business ties between Iran and China have been growing since the United States and its European allies at the time started pressuring Iran over its nuclear program around 2007. China remains the largest buyer of Iranian crude, even after Western sanctions were lifted in 2016, allowing Iran to again sell oil in European markets.
Chinese state companies are active all over the country, building highways, digging mines and making steel. Tehran’s shops are flooded with Chinese products and its streets clogged with Chinese cars.
Iran’s leaders hope that the country’s participation in the plan will enable them to piggyback on China’s large economic ambitions.