Chinese President Xi Jinping and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have ushered in a new era of bilateral ties by announcing the foundation of a China-Syria strategic partnership during their meet-up in Hangzhou, right before the 19th Asian Games’ inauguration. This diplomatic gesture came almost twenty years after Assad’s 2004 visit to China.
This partnership’s establishment is seen by experts as a highly significant move. The West has for years overlooked the enhancement of the quality of life for the Syrian population. China’s engagement with Syria, especially through this strategic alliance, promises to bridge this neglect.
A testament to the warm ties between the two nations was the surprise visit of Assad and his wife to the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, one of China’s prominent Buddhist temples. The impromptu visit was received with enthusiasm by tourists and soon became a trending topic on Chinese social media platforms. Videos circulating on Weibo captured moments where Assad and his wife interacted affably with the public, reiterating that harmonious interactions between diverse cultures and civilizations are possible and cherished.
Reminiscing the historical ties, Xi mentioned that Syria was among the pioneer Arab nations that recognized the People’s Republic of China and supported the country in regaining its legitimate seat at the United Nations. Over a span of 67 years, the diplomatic relationship between China and Syria has witnessed various global shifts, yet the bond has only intensified.
Xi highlighted that the inauguration of the strategic alliance symbolizes a significant chapter in their bilateral history.
Speaking on the potential and symbolism of this partnership, Zhu Yongbiao, Director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at Lanzhou University, commented to the Global Times. According to Zhu, amidst the chaos, particularly due to the US sanctions, Syria’s alliance with China is not only of pragmatic significance but also symbolic. It portrays the failure of the efforts by the US and its allies to displace the Assad regime.
Moreover, it stands as a testament to China’s strategic diplomacy, which maintains its autonomous stance irrespective of external pressures or unilateral moves, as seen from the US.
During the tête-à-tête, Xi assured that China remains steadfast in its commitment to support Syria, particularly in issues concerning Syria’s fundamental interests. He pledged that China would rally alongside Syria to protect the collective interests of developing nations and counteract foreign intercessions, unilateralism, and any aggressive stance. Xi further iterated China’s stance on backing Syria in its reconstruction, enhancing its counter-terrorism strategies, and finding a political resolution to the Syrian issue, adhering to the “Syrian-led, Syrian-owned” doctrine. Moreover, Xi voiced China’s encouragement for Syria to mend its ties with fellow Arab nations and bolster its position on the global and regional stage.
Highlighting recent geopolitical advancements, Syria rejoined the Arab League 12 years after its suspension. Furthermore, China’s mediation enabled the restoration of diplomatic relations between regional adversaries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, half a year ago. With this visit, Assad extends his limited overseas visits post-2011, indicating the significance he accords to China.
The dialogue between Xi and Assad is pivotal in aiding the Syrian citizens as they navigate the post-war phase, aiming for economic revival and reconstruction, stated Zhu. He added, “The West has, for a decade, turned a blind eye to the sufferings of everyday Syrians. Contrarily, China has consistently offered Syria diplomatic and economic assistance, paving the way for reinforced collaboration.”
Another monumental milestone was Syria’s entry into China’s Belt and Road Initiative in January 2022. During their discussion, Xi conveyed China’s eagerness to bolster cooperation under this initiative and expressed intent to escalate imports of quality agricultural commodities from Syria. Assad reciprocated these sentiments by expressing profound gratitude for China’s unwavering support to the Syrian populace. He further reinforced Syria’s stance against any disruptions in China’s internal matters and affirmed Syria’s aspiration to fortify its long-standing friendship and partnership with China.
To seal their commitments, both leaders oversaw the inking of several collaborative accords, including those focusing on the Belt and Road Initiative’s joint development, economic progress dialogues, and tech cooperation.