China Hardens Position on Syria as West Condemns Referendum

Over the weekend, U.S. and 50 allies held a conference in Tunis which called on the government of Bashar al-Assad to allow immediate access to aid in “areas of siege” in Syria. China and Russia had earlier vetoed a U.N. resolution condemning the violent crackdown on opposition groups by Assad’s regime. The Chinese government has hardened its position on Syria since the veto, and spoke out over the weekend against the conference and against Western opposition to Assad. From the Los Angeles Times blog:

The rift with China over Syria was thrown into sharp relief Saturday as Beijing mocked an international conference aimed at protecting the Syrian people against a brutal crackdown and accused the United States and Europe of “hiding a dagger behind a smile.”

“In other words, while they appear to be acting out of humanitarian concern, they are actually harboring hegemonistic ambitions,” said the editorial carried by the official Xinhua news agency.

The surprisingly harsh rhetoric dashed hopes that Beijing might be softening in its opposition to international action against the Syrian regime. China and Russia vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the crackdown.

China and Russia were also conspicuously absent at an international conference called Friends of Syria, which is aiming to end the increasingly lethal crackdown by the Bashar Assad regime. On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lashed out at China and Russia, calling their vetoes “despicable.”

Beijing responded quickly to Clinton’s condemnation of the vetoes in the form of a People’s Daily editorial. Reuters reports:

“The United States’ motive in parading as a ‘protector’ of the Arab peoples is not difficult to imagine. The problem is, what moral basis does it have for this patronizing and egotistical super-arrogance and self-confidence?,” said a commentary in the paper that cited the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“Even now, violence continues unabated in Iraq, and ordinary people enjoy no security. This alone is enough for us to draw a huge question mark over the sincerity and efficacy of U.S. policy,” it said.

The Chinese and Western governments were also at odds over Sunday’s referendum in Syria on a new draft constitution, which Clinton called a “cynical ploy.” In response, the official Global Times also jumped into the fray with an editorial criticizing Western countries’ actions on Syria:

The West is wrong to reject any reform undertaken by Syria and demand President Bashar al-Assad step down in order to end the crisis. This will bring about a civil war and lead to more deaths. What the West wants from Syria is not democracy but the overthrow of the regime so as to eliminate Iran’s influence over Syria.

China should stand by Russia and support the vote.

In a globalized world, it’s difficult for a regime to be unaffected by outside influences.

[…] China’s veto this time is just like water that has been poured. Many of the world’s strategic changes originate with China. Now it’s time for China to face them seriously.

Read more about China and Syria via CDT.

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