China steps up to assist Syria amid Western sanctions
China on Friday unveiled plans to bolster Syria's embattled economy and quell internal conflicts, asserting its strategic interests in a region where it is closely tied with key players like Iran and Saudi Arabia.
During a meeting with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al Assad in Hangzhou on Friday, Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed China's commitment to enhancing its ties with Syria.
"In the backdrop of an increasingly volatile global scenario, China stands ready to intensify its collaboration with Syria, prioritizing friendship and upholding global justice and equality," Xi said, according to Chinese state media.
Xi further voiced China's stance against any foreign meddling in Syria.
"China vehemently backs Syria's resistance against external interference and any unilateral acts of aggression. Our support also extends to Syria's ambitious reconstruction initiatives," he said.
The visit by Assad to China signifies an earnest attempt to break free from over a decade of diplomatic estrangement, exacerbated by Western sanctions. The prime objective is to nurture commercial partnerships with the globe's second-largest economy, especially at a juncture when Syria is in dire need of foreign capital inflows.
The Syrian civil conflict, which erupted in 2011 following a severe clampdown on demonstrators, has been a catastrophic event, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands and displacing millions from their homes. President Assad's administration, bolstered by the might of Russia and Iran, has since regained control over the majority of the Syrian territories. In a notable diplomatic move, ties have been rekindled in the recent past with Arab nations that were once staunch critics of the Assad regime.
China's proactive diplomatic outreach in the Middle East has been evident over the years. A case in point was in March when Beijing played a pivotal role in mediating an unexpected agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, effectively ending a seven-year-long diplomatic standoff.
Drawing attention to premier projects that resonate with the grandeur of the ancient Silk Road and underscore China's global security philosophies, Xi pledged support to Syria in mending its bridges with other Arab nations. "China is enthusiastic about augmenting our cooperation with Syria via the Belt and Road Initiative. Our ultimate goal is to be a beacon of peace and prosperity, both regionally and globally," proclaimed Xi.
However, the enthusiasm may not find much resonance within the Chinese corporate sector. Analysts are skeptical about Chinese companies' willingness to invest in Syria, primarily due to the nation's precarious security landscape and its bleak financial health.
Furthermore, any investments funneled into Syria from Chinese or other global entities could potentially ensnare investors in the intricate web of U.S. sanctions. The Caesar Act of 2020 poses a significant risk, as it empowers U.S. authorities to immobilize the assets of any entity engaged in transactions with Syria, a nation often referred to as a pariah state.