In Syria, a Rare Chinese Foray into Foreign Policy

After vetoing a resolution that would have imposed sanctions on the administration of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, China has offered a four-point plan to try to end an ongoing civil conflict there. Presented on October 31, the plan has four main points, as summarized by U.S. News and World Report: The Syrian government and rebel fighters should make every effort to maintain a ceasefire and work with Brahimi’s mediation efforts;
Both sides should appoint interlocutors who can negotiate a political transition and maintain governmental stability;
The international community should increase support for Brahimi’s efforts and other mediation initiatives, such as “relevant Security Council resolutions”;
The international community should increase humanitarian assistance to conflict regions in Syria. The Washington Post reports on the international response to the proposal: The U.N. has welcomed the effort, but there hasn’t been much international discussion of it. Observers have found it vague, and likely aimed at bolstering China’s reputation following criticism of its moves to join Russia in blocking U.N. resolutions aimed at ending Syria’s bloodshed, including calls for Syrian leader Bashar Assad to step down. China’s proposal leaves open the possibility of Assad staying on in a power-sharing agreement, and does not significantly add to past peace plans that have failed. “But then this statement isn’t so much about setting forward a concrete proposal for action as about the messaging that underpins it,” said Sarah Raine, a consulting fellow for Chinese foreign and security policy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “It has become increasingly clear that Beijing is worried about the reputational damage its relative intransigence on Syria has been doing to other important relationships, in particular in the Middle East.” The Council on Foreign Relations blog explains further why the impact of the proposal is likely to be limited: The new ...
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