The timing of the US airstrikes in Syria, which coincided with the first meeting of the US and Chinese presidents, has wide-ranging implications for the bilateral relationship, and for China’s interests in the Middle East.
Mercy Kuo at the Diplomat spoke with Christina Lin, Fellow at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins on how China might react to the US military action.
The first, and least complex, effect of the strike was to send a message to Beijing that the US is willing to act unilaterally against states with powerful patrons. Despite Russia’s support for the Assad regime, the US was willing to take action. This, at a time when tensions are mounting on the Korean Peninsula, sends a clear message that China’s support for the North Korean regime does not preclude US military action in the region.
More complex is significance the attack represents for China’s Middle East policy, which is at odds with the US interests.
Thousands of Chinese Uyghur members of the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) are fighting alongside al-Qaeda affiliated groups and ISIS against the Assad regime. TIP, seen as a threat to Chinese citizens, receives tacit support from the US and its allies due to their relationship with moderate Syrian opposition forces.
The broader risk is that the conflict could escalate to an international war between the US, Russia and China. Such a conflict would spill over into Israel and provoke Iran, Russia, and China to increase their military support for the Syrian army.
Lin points out that the most important Chinese concern, that of US tacit support for TIP/al-Qaeda requires careful consideration by the US. Without a clear understanding by the US of China’s red line on this issue there is the potential for miscalculation, and military escalation involving both the US and China.
China will react calmly and watch carefully US rabid dog aggression. Everyone knows that China supports Syria with peaceful humantarian and projects.
This piece is not very informative as it suggests war between Russia and China, which is quite comical and fear mongering at the same time. Interviewer and interviewee are out of their depth. Nor is ‘rabid dog aggression’ an intelligent statement, as it is purely an ideological statement with absolutely a vacuum of understanding of the larger picture. The Trump administration is moving, and learning, very quickly. It doesn’t mandate success, but the prior President never deviated once in his submissive position and that path leads nowhere as we’ve seen for a long time.
What is eerily fascinating is watching the development of China’s reaction to the Xi visit and inadvertently simultaneous airstrikes. I believe Xi hwas surprised and impressed with Trump and his family. They are almost completely the antthesis of the prior administration. In particular, the younger members (Jared and Ivanka) have perfectly communicated a message such as the Chinese government and public are completely attuned to. Xi’s visit, and Trump’s acceptance of the visit to China, has enhanced Xi’s stature — and in a rather unexpected way.
I strongly believe that China wants stability and peace in the Middle East (as everywhere) in view of commercial interests of the Belt initiative alone, but also because of Chinese philosophical and moral principles that run very deep in a long history.
China has in been in reliance on the Russian state point of view on Syria, Iran etc as China feels the Middle East is a region where Russia has had centuries of experience. However, after a year of strongly supporting and protecting Assad, China asks itself: how is it possible for Russia to oversee this chemical strike to launched against non-combatants? This is repellant to China.
There is a very real possibility that, if Trump can thread his way through the Syria dilemma and bring stability (even under some protectorate of the great powers), China can learn. It has been very wary, obviously, of being embroiled in larger regional conflicts as it simply doesn’t have the perspective or skills to manage these multiparty situations.
China, typically open-minded in areas where it has limited experience, might say: "President Trump, please us how".
It doesn’t bother me in the least if I’m the only one with this opinion. I’m guardedly optimistic that the US-China relationship can reach a new level of understanding (not simply concessions from both sides). Only a completely renegade US president can engineer this achievement.
If this happens, I believe Russia can be brought in. Wonderful thought: a world run by the great powers with great leaders!
Tom Lee ??? Are you on? For the last 50yrs, the US has been embroiled in one regional conflict or the other and have consistently created its own bogeymen. It supported Viets fighting the French and in turn fought them. Same for Saddam and the Taliban in the 80s. Plus it financed the seedling of what would become Al Qaeda. It is doing the same arming groups in Syria. You will fight these groups you’re supporting in 10-20yrs…
For most of the world outside the Western Alliance, the US is seen as aggressive and the biggest threat to world peace. You had a president that counter-balanced this view by being more pragmatic and accommodating and is well regarded in general throughout the world and you think this is a failure. On top, what has the 1st family added to the table? Did you vote for a president or a Royal dynasty? Trump couldn’t even remember which country he just spent $110m of your tax money bombing. He rembered the chocolate cake though…
The missile strikes were a calculated military muscle flex at both China and Russia. There is still the issue of N Korea and the South China Sea. Quite right it was showing China it would act unilaterally.
China is an emerging superpower economically and militarily. The US is in E and SE Asia. China considers this its sphere of influence. It is in the way of elbow room. Your view of China is outdated and somewhat condescending. It put installations in Scarborough shoal, within the EEZ of a US ally in the SCS. It threatened Britain (!) with economic backlash if nuke plant projects its invested in does not go ahead. This should tell you that China will do it its way. It is confident enough in itself without looking to anyone for ‘how’.
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