30 August 2016
A recent deal on military cooperation between China and Syria is viewed as a deepening of Beijing’s policy towards direct engagement in the domestic affairs of Middle Eastern states, despite its long-held principle of non- interventionism.
Observers say how China handles its Middle Eastern involvement would not only affect its influence and interests in the region but also pose ramifications on other fronts, like its strategic rivalry with the United States.
An Aug 15 meeting between China’s Rear-Admiral Guan Youfei and Syrian Defence Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij in Damascus saw both sides reaching a consensus on the People’s Liberation Army providing personnel training and humanitarian aid to the Syrian military.
Though there have been media reports of the Chinese military’s presence in Syria, the deal marks the first time both sides have publicly pledged military cooperation and is seen by some as China’s decision to back the Bashar al-Assad government against the opposition rebels. Middle East expert Sun Degang of the Shanghai International Studies University said China sees a greater need to protect its economic interests in the Middle East – which accounts for more than half of China’s crude oil imports.
… Middle East expert James Dorsey from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies said China’s goals also include joining the international fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, which reportedly has links with the East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) separatist group that seeks the Xinjiang region’s separation from China.
RSIS / Online / Print
Last updated on 30/08/2016