The top advisor of Syrian president Assad is meeting with China’s Minister of foreign affairs this week. China has also announced that it is thinking about inviting representatives of the Syrian opposition. The media coverage of Russia’s and China’s policy on the Civil War in Syria often focuses on Russia. In this article, I would like to put China in the spotlights.
It is quite unusual for permanent members of the Security Council to use their veto power so frequently in such a short period of time.
What are China’s motives for using its veto 3 times since the Syrian conflict started?
Part of the explanation is that the way in which the resolutions were drafted was not really suitable for reaching a compromise between the West, Russia and China. But in addition to that, China’s own interests were also a cause.
China would like to see the Assad regime survive because this strengthens Iranian influence in the Middle East. This may sound odd, however if Iran’s influence in the region grows then the United States will commit more resources to the Middle East to try and restore the balance of power. Consequently, the United States has less resources available to counter China’s claims for territory, fishing rights and oil drilling rights in the South China Sea.
Also, Iran supplies China with a large part of its demand for oil. Therefore, China would like to keep a close relationship with Tehran. This means that it’s willing to protect Syria, which is Iran’s ally, to keep its oil supplier happy.
In addition to that, China has a reputation for not whining about human rights issues. This policy earns it lucrative trade relationships with several authoritarian regimes.
However, this reputation has been damaged since China abstained from voting over the resolution about a no-fly zone over Libya, which resulted in the adoption of the resolution. The reason for abstaining was that Saudi Arabia put pressure on China to cooperate in ousting Gaddafi. Once again the black gold played an important role. Because Saudi Arabia is another important oil distributor for China, China gave in to its demands.
China is now trying to restore its reputation by preventing intervention in Syria. We should not expect to see China support any kind of intervention whatsoever, wherever in the time to come.
Of course, China is also against humanitarian intervention because it has many human rights issues inside its own borders. It definitely does not want other countries meddling in its internal affairs.
“Trouw” 11 aug 2012 http://www.trouw.nl/