The UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, walks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi prior to a meeting in Beijing on Oct. 31. (PHOTO AP, Takuro Yabe)
OSMAN EROL, BEIJING,
China’s Syria policy and its support for the Assad regime along with that of Iran and Russia have turned out to be unsustainable mainly because of the wide recognition of the results of December’s Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Morocco.
The new process that is acknowledged in the international arena is developing in a direction against China’s wishes.
Due to their own interests, up until now, Russia, Iran and China stood behind the Assad regime. However, this “alliance” is no longer as strong as it used to be. Developments such as Vladimir Putin’s visit to Turkey and his statement that they are not advocates of Syria, the statement of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Assad is likely to leave office soon and directing him to Latin American countries instead of Russia, NATO’s statement that Assad could leave soon, the meeting in Morocco and the deployment of US warships near Syria led to the dissolution of the alliance. Being the leader of this trilateral alliance, it is safe to say that Russia acted according to the main political conjuncture.
China’s Syria policy was based on the protection of its economic gains with the status quo and the Assad regime. In the current picture, however, China’s policy has been weakened in line with the weakening of the alliance supporting the Assad regime. Witnessing a change that it does not favor, China is not likely to continue with its Syria policy as it is. It could be argued that Beijing had to watch what happened without an impact on events in Syria.
China, along with Iran, served as the axis of support in Russia’s Syria policy. However, experts argue that despite a change in the policy of Russia, Iran might keep its silence on the issue and China might cling to rhetoric that is based on protecting its own interests. In a remark that confirmed the endorsement of a political solution in Syria, a spokesperson at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hong Lei, had said, “We would like a political transition process to start as soon as possible with an immediate cease-fire to restore peace and security in the country.”
In a strong reaction to the recognition of the Syrian National Coalition as the legitimate representative of Syria at the fourth Friends of the Syrian People meeting in Morocco, Hong said that only the Syrian people could determine the future of Syria.
The Beijing administration is concerned about the addition of one more country to the successful chain of the Arab Spring, which would result in the loss of the pro-China front in the Middle East and North Africa. Consequently, a significant change in China’s Syria policy is not expected.
Professor Wang Lincong, director of the international relations division of the Institute of West Asian and African Studies and secretary-general of the Gulf Research Center, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), agrees that China has not changed its position in the Syria issue. According to Wang, China is insistent on a political solution and supports the process of political transition led by the people and is willing to keep channels of communication open with all parties in Syria.
Wang further states that in Syria “unexpected results especially damage neighboring countries,” which should be taken into account. Consequently, he recommends prevention of “an uncontrolled situation in Syria.” He also believes that Turkey could play a more important role in the crisis by forcing a political solution. Wang concludes with a warning on the dangers of a “zero-sum game in the Syria crisis” as it would result in a huge disaster for the future of political reconstruction.