International Christian Concern
Notably, China was the nation to broker this agreement. An authoritarian nation itself, China persecutes Christians intensely and leads the world in the surveillance of religious minorities, including Muslims. China’s system of control and its network of concentration camps for Uyghur Muslims represents the world’s largest-scale current religious and ethnic genocide.
For decades, China has waged a global influence campaign in developing nations, including many that regularly engage in serious violations of human rights. Its development strategy ignores human rights violations in recipient nations. It has been described by many analysts as predatory, emphasizing the extraction of natural resources at the expense of labor and broader human rights. China does not predicate development aid or diplomatic relation on human rights conditions in the recipient country as the United States does, allowing it to build deep relations with oppressive regimes like Iran and countries like Saudi Arabia, where human rights concerns regularly rock relations with the United States.
As China and the United States battle for global influence, the deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia does not represent a shift in power. Still, it is simply a symptom of the long-standing reality that China’s economic clout and friendly posture towards repressive authoritarianism puts it in a prime position to court and influence oppressive regimes worldwide.
Though the agreement has yet to be implemented, it will likely have repercussions on human rights and religious freedom, not just in the Middle East but worldwide. In South Asia, for example, the deal could lead to friendlier relations between Iran and Pakistan, another chronic suppressor of religious freedom that has long hesitated to overture Iran for fear of losing Saudi financial support.
While the softening of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia may have positive implications for certain conflicts, the agreement is a boon to China and the cause of authoritarianism around the world.
As the international community weighs the geopolitical and economic implications of the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, it is important to remember the extent of human suffering created by these governments, especially on religious minorities who often have no recourse in a system created to repress and marginalize them at every turn. Leaders in Washington would do well to remember these minorities in their response.