Fan Hongda

Professor, Middle East Studies Institute, Shanghai International Studies University

Fan Hongda is a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, China. He is mainly engaged in the study of Middle Eastern politics and international relations and has published four monographs and various academic articles. Since 2010, he has continued to conduct in-depth studies in Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

This UGC image posted on Twitter reportedly on 26 October 2022 shows an unveiled woman standing on top of a vehicle as thousands make their way towards Aichi cemetery in Saqez, Mahsa Amini's home town in the western Iranian province of Kurdistan, to mark 40 days since her death, defying heightened security measures as part of a bloody crackdown on women-led protests. (UGC/AFP)

What China can learn from the Iran protests

The protests in Iran following the death of 22-year-old Iranian woman Mahsa Amini seem to have put the authorities on the back foot, worsened by the missteps in its responses. The current protests in China have also clearly taken the Chinese government by surprise. Academic Fan Hongda notes that the Chinese authorities can take the example of Iran to see what moves to avoid.
A newspaper with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by Iranian morality police is seen in Tehran, Iran, 18 September 2022. (Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency via Reuters)

Can China stay silent about mass protests in Iran?

Even as the protests in Iran continue after more than a month with no sign of abating, all efforts seem futile as external support is not forthcoming. There looks to be little hope of permanent change as the current regime remains firmly in control. Meanwhile, as China expands its global influence, can it stay silent in dealing with the internal affairs of Iran and other countries? Or remove reports of protests from their state media?
People shop at the Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran, on 13 June 2022. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Iran seeks greater regional role through full membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation

While some pundits have it that Iran sees gaining full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in terms of geopolitics, Fan Hongda thinks that the more bread-and-butter concern of strengthening economic and trade cooperation is on its mind. But this is not to say that Iran does not harbour ambitions of playing a greater regional role.
Ukrainian servicemen run at the front line east of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on 31 March 2022. (Fadel Senna/AFP)

China must reflect on its third-party position in the Russia-Ukraine war

Despite being a third party to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, China has been hit with heavy criticism from the Western powers, especially the US, about its position in the war. Chinese academic Fan Hongda believes that while the West does have a powerful media machine behind it that paints China in an unfavourable light, the latter also needs to reflect on its responses to external conflicts, and its lack of domestic channels for the Chinese to voice their diverse views.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in Jiangsu, 10 January 2022. (Xinhua)

Chinese academic: Beijing does not want China to replace the US in the Middle East

While it is a fact that China and countries in the Middle East region enjoy closer ties, China is still far behind the US in terms of its regional influence. At the same time, the countries are also more attracted to the US and European powerhouses than China. Thus, it would be unwise to overthink the recent slew of visits to Beijing by foreign ministers of countries in the Middle East region.
A handout picture made available by the Iranian Red Crescent on 19 August 2021, shows a young Afghan refugee at the Iran-Afghanistan border between Afghanistan and the southeastern Iranian Sistan and Baluchestan province, as people fleeing AFghanistan try to enter the Islamic republic following the takeover of their country by the Taliban earlier this week. (Mohammad Javadzadeh/Iranian Red Crescent/AFP)

What China wants to see under a Taliban-led Afghanistan

Chinese academic Fan Hongda says that following the US troop pullout of Afghanistan, the Taliban have much to do to convince the international community that they can lead the country, and that they can rebuild Afghanistan. Will Taliban rule be any different this time round as compared to 20 years ago? How would China react to the new ruling power in Afghanistan?
People wearing face masks walk past a mural displaying Iran's national flag in Tehran, Iran on 17 June 2021. (Atta Kenare/AFP)

Chinese academic: Can China challenge the US’s standing in the Middle East?

Although China has made inroads into the Middle East as a major investor and economic partner, some are suspicious of its intentions in being all things to all countries in this fractious region. Thus, even if there is much hype about its ability to take over the US’s role in the region, China should remember that it still lacks the power and wherewithal to exert a major influence.
A Palestinian girl plays amidst the rubble of buildings destroyed by last month's Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in Beit Lahia, in the northern part of the Palestinian enclave on 19 June 2021. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

China needs to reset its approach to the Palestinian issue — fast

From its biased stance towards Palestine in the recent Gaza-Israel conflict and the way it has tried to bring in the Xinjiang issue, it is clear that China is getting its approach to Palestine and Israel all wrong, says Fan Hongda. Amid a vastly changed political landscape in the Middle East, China needs to recalibrate its strategy. Otherwise, not only will it have little influence in the Gaza-Israeli conflict, it will end up on the back foot in defending its affairs in Xinjiang.
Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi bump elbows during the signing ceremony of a 25-year cooperation agreement, in Tehran, Iran, 27 March 2021. (Majid Asgaripour/West Asia News Agency via Reuters)

Chinese academic: China-Iran deal will benefit China, Iran and Middle Eastern countries in the long run

A 25-year cooperation agreement was signed recently between China and Iran. The West and countries in the Middle East are alarmed by what closer China-Iran ties could mean for their interests, while the Iranians and the Chinese have different reactions to the news. Fan Hongda weighs the pros and cons of the agreement and what it means for all its stakeholders.