In a significant and rare diplomatic development, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Syrian counterpart, President Bashar al-Assad, came together on Friday to unveil the formation of a strategic partnership between China and Syria. This joint announcement marks a notable step in international relations between the two nations, adding to the already convoluted diplomatic network in Syria.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad held a significant meeting in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, in anticipation of the 19th Asian Games. This gathering between the two nations marked a historic moment, being the first such event since 2004.
During their meeting, President Xi emphasized that the establishment of a strategic partnership between China and Syria is a pivotal milestone in their bilateral relations. In diplomatic terms, a “strategic partnership” signifies increased coordination on regional and international matters, encompassing military cooperation.
President Xi assured that China is committed to working closely with Syria to enhance their relationship and advance the Chinese-Syrian strategic partnership. He underscored their mutual interests, including regional security against terrorism and external threats, including foreign involvement in the Middle East.
China also expressed its support for Syria by improving ties with other Arab nations and playing a more substantial role in regional affairs.
Furthermore, President Xi called on Western nations to lift sanctions on Syria, offering China’s assistance in rebuilding the war-torn nation. China intends to bolster Belt and Road cooperation, increase imports of high-quality agricultural products, and contribute to global peace and development through various cooperative initiatives.
In response, President Assad acknowledged China’s commitment to international fairness, law, and humanitarian efforts. He expressed gratitude for China’s invaluable support and stressed Syria’s readiness to be a steadfast friend and partner of China.
Following their discussions, the two leaders witnessed the signing of bilateral cooperation agreements, spanning areas like Belt and Road cooperation and economic and technological collaboration.
China’s History With Syria:
The meeting provided a boost in international legitimacy to President Bashar Al-Assad, who is currently improving relations with his Arab neighbors in an effort to reintegrate Syria into world affairs following the Syria Civil War.
Historically, China recognized Syria and established diplomatic relations in 1956, soon after Syria’s independence from French rule. However, the relationship remained relatively low-key for several decades.
The 21st century has witnessed increased engagement between the two nations. Economic ties have strengthened, primarily through Chinese investments in Syria’s infrastructure and energy sectors. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has played a role in expanding economic cooperation.
During the Syrian Civil War, China’s diplomatic relationship with Syria took on a complex form. China maintained a policy of non-interference in Syria’s internal affairs while pursuing its broader strategic and economic interests. However, China, along with Russia, used its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to block or water down resolutions aimed at condemning the Syrian government or imposing sanctions. Beijing argued for a peaceful resolution to the conflict and promoted talks between the Syrian government and opposition factions.
Economically, China remained involved in Syria through its Belt and Road Initiative, investing in infrastructure projects and energy sectors. Chinese firms have played a role in post-war reconstruction, indicating China’s long-term commitment to the region’s stability and potentially stepping in the shoes left by Russia and the United States.
China also engaged in humanitarian efforts, providing aid to Syria, including medical and food assistance.
Hope For a Syrian Future:
Syria is placing great hope in Chinese cooperation for investment and reconstruction, primarily because the country’s economy has been severely devastated by both the impact of the civil war and Western sanctions. The dire economic situation has triggered protests in southern Syria, where demonstrators have voiced calls for the removal of the president. This economic distress and the associated protests highlight the urgent need for external support, such as Chinese investment, to help address the economic and humanitarian challenges that Syria faces.
While Syria hopes for Chinese investments to aid in its economic recovery, the potential involvement of Chinese firms is clouded by the risk of U.S. sanctions under the 2020 Caesar Act.