The Chinese Paradox 'Non-Interference' in Middle East Conflicts and Support for Governments! The Case of Syria

Posted: 29 Oct 2018

See all articles by Hichem Karoui

Hichem Karoui

Center for China & Globalization (CCG)

Date Written: August 1, 2018


Beijing has remained for a long time away from Middle Eastern conflicts, leaving them to the other permanent member states of the Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France and Russia. However, China inaugurated the year 2016 by issuing a document concerned with its new policy in the Arab region, just before the Chinese leader Xi Jinping's visit to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran that confirmed a shift in Chinese foreign policy toward greater attention to security issues and political developments taking place in the Middle East.

By assigning a special envoy to Syria on March 28, 2016, China confirmed that its objective is to contribute in the promotion of inter-Syrian dialogue in an attempt to resolve the crisis and increase cooperation and communication between the parties involved. The move added a new sign to the Chinese endeavour strengthening its diplomatic presence in the Middle East -- a major source for energy supply. In this context, Beijing expressed its readiness to host talks between the Syrian government and the opposition and received the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Walid al-Moallem, and later received a delegation from the opposition coalition.

Beijing calls for a «political solution» to the Syrian crisis. At the same time, it has used its veto six times in the UN Security Council against resolutions related to the crisis condemning the regime of Bashar al-Assad. This made China’s positions largely misunderstood in the Middle East. The questions that come back frequently in this context, raise doubts about China’s real motives and goals. For example, if China was neutral in the Syrian crisis, why did it repeatedly veto drafts condemning Bashar’s regime in the UNSC, instead of abstention? Why did it provide weapons to the same regime? The Chinese position is often identified or linked to Russia. Do they have the same motives and objectives? The present paper aims at exploring these issues. It will cast light on some undisclosed reasons and motives driving China foreign policy in Syria, among which the activism of Chinese Islamist militancy, especially within the ranks of the Syrian rebellion. The consequences are crucial for any solution of the Syrian conflict as it seems from the present positioning of the major actors.

Keywords: China, Middle East, Syria, Gulf, Conflict

Suggested Citation

Karoui, Hichem, The Chinese Paradox 'Non-Interference' in Middle East Conflicts and Support for Governments! The Case of Syria (August 1, 2018). Available at SSRN:

Hichem Karoui (Contact Author)

Center for China & Globalization (CCG) ( email )



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