China paper defends Syria veto, doubts West's intentions

Published: February 6, 2012

A woman flashes a victory sign during a march in solidarity with the people of Syria in Sanaa. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING: China’s top newspaper on Monday defended Beijing’s rejection of a UN resolution pressing Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to abandon power, saying Western campaigns in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq showed the error of forced regime change.  

The commentary in the People’s Daily, the top newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, was Beijing’s clearest defence of its decision to join Moscow at the weekend in vetoing a draft United Nations resolution that would have backed an Arab plan urging Assad to quit after months of bloodshed.

The commentary suggested that Chinese distrust of Western intervention lay behind the veto, which was described by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a “travesty”.

“The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate and numbers of civilian casualties keep rising. Vetoing the draft Security Council resolution does not mean we are giving free rein to letting this heart-rending state of affairs continue,” said the commentary in the paper, which echoes government thinking.

China, not its Western critics, was acting “responsibly” for the sake of the Syrian people, it said. The author used the pen name “Zhong Sheng”, which can mean “voice of China” and is often used to give Beijing’s position on foreign policy.

“Currently, the situation in Syria is extremely complex. Simplistically supporting one side and suppressing the other might seem a helpful way of turning things around, but in fact it would be sowing fresh seeds of disaster,” said the paper.

China’s siding with Russia over Syria could add to irritants with the United States. Vice President Xi Jinping is due to visit there next week, burnishing his credentials as the Communist Party’s likely next top leader.

Beijing and Washington have also sparred over Iran, which faces tightened Western sanctions over its nuclear ambitions.

The commentary also laid bare broader Chinese concerns about Western-backed intervention in the Arab world and beyond.

China is one of the five permanent UN Security Council members that hold the power to veto resolutions.

In March, China abstained from a Council vote that authorised Western military intervention in Libya. That resolution became the basis for a Nato air campaign that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, despite misgivings from Beijing and Moscow about the expanded campaign, which they said went beyond the resolution.

“Libya offers a negative case study. Nato abused the Security Council resolution about establishing a no-fly zone, and directly provided firepower assistance to one side in the Libyan war,” said the People’s Daily Commentary.

It also cited Iraq and Afghanistan in its case against theSyria resolution.

“The calamities of Iraq and Afghanistan should be ample to wipe clear the world’s eyes. Forceful prevention of a humanitarian disaster sounds filled with a sense of justice and responsibility,” said the paper.

“But are not the unstoppable attacks and explosions over a decade after regime change a humanitarian disaster?” it said.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • John B
    Feb 6, 2012 - 11:09AM

    Now china and Russia will be supplying weapons legally, as they have been in the past 9 months and the “rebels” will be supplied clandestinely by others. Syria will descend into more civil war.

    If the Arab league after months of negotiations and monitoring had not solved the problem how would China and Russia can resolve the crisis.

    Syria needs Arab league more than China and Russia. Do China and Russia needs Present govt in Syria?

    This present govt in Syria will fall eventually, and when the new govt comes, China and Russia may not be good friends with them.

    Putin is afraid of domestic unrest Brewing in his presidential bid. China is also thinking along the same line.

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  • Gavan
    Feb 6, 2012 - 12:11PM

    We have come to a point in time where we can no longer believe anything coming from the US or Israel. That is not to say they are incorrect on this occasion, but that we simply cannot know one way or another. I cannot remember the last time a politician kept an election promise or when a government did what it said it would do, or for the reasons they said they would do it. Lybia for example… Sadly, this leaves us in a position of having to remain in a vulnerable position defense wise rather than act to defend ourselves from what is likely a manufactured political threat rather than a real one. No decent person can condone military intervention from the west, when we know it is most likely an unjustified criminal action.

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  • Feb 6, 2012 - 2:33PM

    Rightly acted.

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  • Noise
    Feb 6, 2012 - 3:45PM

    @John B
    The resolutions the west promoted merely sought to tie the the hands of one side while giving free reign to the other side. The violence in Syria is not one sided. Although without western intervention the Syrian government will most likely win. Or maybe Syria will break up.
    A money minded country like China does not back a side that is likely to lose. Backing losing sides is the business of countries that like to hide behind ideologies like the entire West and Pakistan or Iran.

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  • John B
    Feb 6, 2012 - 8:40PM

    @Noise:
    Disagree. The Saturday resolution was as good as it can get in a typical SC and was redrafted after opposition from India along with other countries with previous resolution. There are elements of international politics, domestic politics and Syrian domestic politics at play. US domestic and international politics is the least of the problem in this, as US really does not want to be sucked into this, where as French and UK wants active role.

    In Syria’s case religious division is at play along with genuine government reform and the immunity to Assad is yet an open ended debate.

    In simpler terms, transferring the power to the deputy while the present government still in control is the easiest one. But then, without a solid immunity Assad is not going to go away, and certain factions of religious right in the “rebel” do not agree to this either, and the large Christian population fear that they will be side lined in this conflict.

    In either case, Syria will be in turmoil whether SC resolution or not, which everyone would like to avoid.

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  • You Said It
    Feb 7, 2012 - 8:54AM

    China is concerned that if a motion against Bashar al-Assad who is guilty of killing Syrian citizens passes today, then some day the world may call PRC leaders to account as well for their continued killing of Chinese citizens in Tibet and Xinjiang. It is but natural for killers to come to the aid of killers.

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  • Feb 7, 2012 - 8:59AM

    Ancient Chinese proverb: Tyrants must protect tyrants.

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