China may soon escalate beyond using just political and economic pressure to accomplish its goals, this time with its military and fighting alongside Syria.
A Syrian woman covers her face in horror during some of the attacks in the Idlib region in 2014. Photo: Avanzamos con un destino, CC
China’s rise as a global economic power has brought it political position power which now is unrivaled with few exceptions in the world. It has also flexed its muscles in Asia with a blatant refusal to move out of the South China Sea regions, despite the United Nations having ruled it had not right to be there. The country is also building up its military with ground, sea and air forces.
According to analysts, China may be about to start using those military forces to further other policy issues in the world. Syria, a long-time ally of China, could benefit from this switch in how the country may support its foreign policy in the region.
Qi Qianjin, Chinese Ambassador to Syria, showed some of the country’s hand in these matters when he said during on August 2 that Beijing might send forces to help out the Syrian Army in the upcoming Idlib offensive there. During that interview with Syria’s Al-Watan newspaper, Qi said that the Chinese military “is willing to participate in some way alongside the Syrian Army that is fighting the terrorists in Idlib and in any other part of Syria”. He went on to say that, “There is positive military cooperation between China and Syria in the domain of counter-terrorism. We know that the war on terror and Syria's campaign against the terrorists serve not only the interests of the Syrian people, but also the interests of the Chinese people and [those] of [all] the peoples of the world. There has been close cooperation between our armies in fighting the terrorists [who came to Syria] from all over the world, including terrorists who came from China. This cooperation between the armies and [other] relevant elements will continue in the future.”
The Idlib situation grew after Uyghur militants managed to smuggle thousands of themselves and their families into Syria during the many years of the current conflict. Most of these settled in the province of Idlib alongside other terrorists, both foreign and domestic. The Uyghur separatists in China are a Turkic ethnic minority, with some actively advocating for independence of China’s Xinjiang province. China will want to control any Uyghur separatists in Idlib as that area comes under fire from any source.
Confirming other foreign intelligence reports, in a separate interview, Chinese military attaché for Syria, Roy Chang, spoke of “ongoing” military cooperation between Syria and China. He said further that China wants to do more regarding its relations with Syrian Armed Forces. He explained how it integrated into overall country policy saying that, First, the Chinese government opposes every kind of terrorism ... Second, we regret that some Chinese nationals, encouraged by extremist organizations, came to Syria and formed a terrorist organization [that fights] the [Syrian] citizens and government. We oppose and condemn this and express our sorrow over the crimes perpetrated [by this organization] against the Syrian people and government.”
As to the question of sending troops, he said, “The military cooperation between the Syrian and Chinese armies is ongoing. We have good relations and we maintain this cooperation in order to serve the security, integrity and stability of our countries. We – China and its military – wish to develop our relations with the Syrian Army. As for participating in the Idlib operation, it requires a political decision.” He did say this had not yet reached the level of having military advisers or special Chinese forces in Syria for the moment, though he did not rule out that this might happen sometime.
According to a recent interview with political analyst Daniel Patrick Welch on Press TV, China has had enough of America’s meddling in foreign affairs which run counter to its interests. As Welch said in that interview, “There are new indications that China may be considering involvement in helping to retake Idlib in Syria… It shows that a new order is emerging. China and Russia both with their own integration continuing … all of these things are indications that they are fed up with the US regime change and a coup factory.”
Part of why China is willing to up the pressure in the region is because today Beijing is after much bigger things than even just current economic power. With their massive “One Belt, One Road” expansion to connect the world’s markets by rail, road, and sea, along with port investments in Egypt and Djibouti (along the Horn of Africa), China has spent trillions of dollars getting ready for this moment. Those trillions have gone into infrastructure while the U.S. and the West have often squandered their monies on needless war and global destabilization.
Another recent analysis of the situation appeared recently in Worldview. In that article, it said that, “Beijing is likely to deploy a limited number of Special Forces soldiers and military advisers to assist Syrian government forces, while also working with Syria’s various intelligence agencies to prevent Uyghur militants from sneaking back into China and carrying out terrorist attacks.”
"Chinese President Xi Jinping has committed extensive resources toward reforming China's military and developed its historic trade routes across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe. And in both of those endeavors, [Syrian President Bashar] Assad's comeback in Syria has had benefits for Beijing," it added.
The reason for why these matters have escalated in front of the public just now has to do what Syrian President Assad has himself said just a few weeks ago. Then he said that his own government troops are moving to liberate the northwestern province of Syria. That happens to be where Idlib is located.
If China does escalate as these public statements suggest, it will create further tension between China and Russia on one side of the Syrian conflict and the United States on the other. It will also signify yet another bloody battleground, this time no longer just political or economic, where China and the U.S. have been long overdue for a confrontation.