Thursday, January 28, 2016

China on Russia's intervention in Syria

For the Centre for Eastern Studies, I analysed how Chinese officials, experts and journalists commented on Russia's intervention in Syria:
China has reacted positively to Russia’s military intervention in Syria. The Chinese government perceives it as an element of the global fight against terrorism, and has emphasised the fact that Russia was acting in response to a request by the Syrian government. At the same time, Beijing has argued that the Syrian conflict cannot be resolved by military means and that a political compromise is necessary. 
Reports and comments in the Chinese media have been dominated by several major issues. The Russian operation was presented as a strategic failure of the West, and a fiasco of the unilateral policy pursued by the US. Numerous Chinese observers have considered Russia’s intervention an adequate response to what they saw as a policy of ‘double standards’ pursued by the West. In their view, under this policy the Western states themselves contributed to the emergence of so-called Islamic State. Chinese media have emphasised the fact that Russia has benefited from the operation in Syria in many ways: it has defended its interests in the Middle East, boosted its prestige in the international arena and overcome its partial isolation in relations with the West, which has been ongoing since the war with Ukraine began. At the same time, Chinese commentators disagree as to their assessment of the impact of the Russian intervention on relations between Russia and the West. Some of them view the prospect of Russia’s rapprochement with the West as likely, whereas others point to the risk that the tensions could be aggravated. 
Beijing’s position on Russia’s intervention is motivated by China’s global and regional interests. In a situation of increased tension in Chinese-American relations, Russia has shouldered the burden of open rivalry with the United States. In the context of China’s interests in the Middle East, Russia’s intervention makes it possible for Beijing to place itself in the position of the only neutral actor in the Syrian conflict, as well as being a possible intermediary. For Beijing, another motive to assess the Russian intervention positively has been the Chinese vision of the global fight against terrorism. China has promoted the need for unity over this issue, by which it intends to legitimise the policy it has pursued in Xinjiang.
Read the whole article here: China on Russia's intervention in Syria


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