News / Asia

Chinese Participation in Disposal of Syrian Arms Foreshadows More Engagement

FILE - China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to members of the media after the U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria at the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York.
FILE - China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to members of the media after the U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria at the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York.
VOA News
China is lending its warships to the international effort to move chemical weapons out of Syria in a mission that Chinese media report is the navy's first in the Mediterranean Sea.
 
Beijing has promoted the move as a demonstration of its growth into a responsible stakeholder for world peace. Although the move shows Beijing is involving itself more in world crises, analysts think the country is unlikely to abandon its foreign policy principle of non-intervention.
 
A New Mission for the Chinese Navy
 
The Syrian mission marks new territory for China's navy, which has been focused on building up its capabilities in operating in waters far from home.
 
According to China's Ministry of Defense, Beijing will send warships to escort Danish and Norwegian container ships from Syria to an Italian port in the Mediterranean. China’s ships will for the first time work alongside the Russian navy in a real life naval mission, although the two have cooperated in naval drills in the past.
 
Chen Kai, secretary-general of the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, told Xinhua news agency that this mission will serve as a training as well, since the Mediterranean Sea is still a relatively unfamiliar environment for the Chinese navy.
 
He said that China has accumulated useful experience by deploying Chinese navy warships in the western Indian Ocean to fight piracy and is now putting such experience in practice in different waters.
 
“The fact that China can participate in naval escort operation is the embodiment of China's international status,” he told the Global Times. “This sort of operation is not something that everybody can engage in.”
 
Beijing-based political scientist Xie Tao said China signed on to the mission because it was agreed upon by all parties and authorized by the United Nations, making it uncontroversial for Beijing to participate.
 
“China would always allow Western countries to go first, and then once the crisis is kind of over for some kind of follow up efforts - like the one China is doing today - then China would be happy to join these efforts,” Xie said. “It is a kind of free riding.”
 
China Stays Consistent on Syria
 
Since civil war broke out in Syria more than two years ago, China has been reluctant to intervene. It has sided with fellow U.N. Security Council member Russia when the issue has come up, vetoing three U.N. resolutions calling for sanctions against the Assad regime.
 
China has justified its position by saying that it does not meddle with other countries' political affairs. However, critics have pointed at Beijing's continuing financial and military assistance to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as a clear sign of China's actual pro-regime engagement.
 
Xie Tao said that the decision to help destroy chemical weapons does not mean that China is switching partners in Syria.
 
“I don't believe that this is a gesture from China to the Syrian leader that starting from now we are gonna keep some distance between you and I, I don't think it's a message meant for Assad,” said Xie.
 
Syria Mission as an Opportunity for Mideast Outreach
 
Yu Guoqing, research fellow at the institute of West Asian and African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said recent developments in Syria - with Russia brokering a deal on Syria's chemical stockpile - prompted China to engage with the U.N. mission.
 
"As long as the international community and the Syrian people need it, and as long as China has the ability to help out, it is understandable that China wants to do something,” Yu said. "China is catering to the needs of the international community to [show] new maneuvering in Syria and the Middle East, and I think it is acting in accordance with the interests of the related countries and the whole world."
 
China's growing presence abroad - including its significant energy interests in the Middle East - might be another factor in Beijing's decision to do more to promote stability in the region. Analysts are looking at whether such international commitment will be a prelude to engagement in other regions as well.
 
“If China can do this in Syria, maybe China can do this in… different countries. Shift over to the D.P.R.K., maybe China will join hands with some other countries in disarming the nuclear weapons there, and maybe some other parts of the world where some countries are developing chemical weapons,” said Xie Tao, referring to North Korea by the initials for its more formal name.
 
Nonetheless, analysts believe that while Beijing may become more engaged in multilateral, U.N.-sanctioned missions abroad, China will remain wary of taking the lead in international missions. Much like what happened in Syria, China might agree to intervene in other regions only well after international consensus is reached.

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid