This week, Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived in China to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, making it his first official visit to the Asian country since the beginning of the Syrian conflict over a decade ago.
Assad’s visit takes place as he continues to steward Syria and stubbornly resist the efforts of Western powers such as the US to cripple his country by economic sanctions and proxy militant groups.
During the meeting between Assad and Xi, the two world leaders announced the creation of a strategic partnership between their countries, which Assad described as an important milestone in the history of relations between Damascus and Beijing.
The Syrian president also praised China, stating that the latter has always stood on the side of international law, fairness and justice.
For his part, Xi said that China supports Syria’s efforts in rebuilding and improving its counterterrorism capabilities, as well as in improving relations between Damascus and other Arab countries.
A number of bilateral cooperation documents have also been signed between Syria and China during Assad’s visit, including those related to economic and technological cooperation and Syria’s participation in China’s Belt and Road initiative.
Commenting on this development, Dan Kovalik, a professor of international human rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, told Sputnik that Assad’s trip may be a sign of Syria “slowly emerging from its isolation that the West has imposed.”
“I think it also means, you know, that Syria needs China’s help for reconstruction,” Kovalik said, noting that years of violent armed conflict left the Middle Eastern country in a “terrible shape.”
He pointed out that the United States’ forces and proxies continue to occupy about one-third of Syria’s territory, including the “most oil-rich part” of the country, “which makes reconstruction even more difficult.”
“I think China is the key to Syria getting back on its feet economically and getting through this humanitarian crisis,” the adjunct professor postulated.
His sentiment was echoed by “Silk and Steel” podcast host Carl Zha who noted that China, along with Russia, continued to back Syria throughout the proxy war waged against Damascus “by the US and NATO countries.”
“While Syria is still under severe Washington sanctions, China can provide serious financial help in the reconstruction of Syria, which Syria desperately needs,” Zha said.
He further suggested that Syria may play an important role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, serving as a “conduit for transport of goods,” and that this may be a considerable boon to the Syrian post-conflict recovery.
“China can include Syria in its Belt and Road initiative and by building infrastructure, by building ports, building roads, building more global connectivity, it will help to reintegrate Syria into the global community,” Zha ventured.
Meanwhile, Kovalik suggested that Assad’s voyage also shows that “China needs Syria and wants Syria’s friendship,” due to Damascus’ apparent importance in the eyes of Beijing.
“I think they see Syria as an important country in the world, not just because of its oil, but because of its history and its significance in the Middle East as a country that has given unwavering support to the Palestinians, for example. So I think it’s a mutually good relationship,” he said.
According to Kovalik, the actions of the United States also help drive China and Syria together, as Washington has been “on a warpath” against both Beijing and Damascus for quite some time.
A joint statement issued by China and Syria also says that Beijing stands for lifting all of the illegal unilateral sanctions imposed on Syria.
China, together with Russia, has repeatedly vetoed UNSC resolutions on Syria that might have resulted in the imposition of anti-Syrian sanctions over the escalation of violence in the Middle Eastern country.
Just like Moscow, Beijing remains one of the countries that continuously advocated for a peaceful resolution of the Syrian crisis and urged certain world powers from meddling in Syria’s internal affairs.