China defends Syria veto

2012-02-06 09:45
Beijing - China's state-run media on Monday defended the government's rejection of a UN resolution pressing Syrian President Bashar Assad to abandon power, saying Western intervention in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq showed the error of forced regime change.

The People's Daily, the top newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, set out in a commentary the clearest defence of the decision to join Russia at the weekend in vetoing a draft UN resolution that would have backed an Arab plan urging Assad to quit after months of worsening bloodshed.

The newspaper suggested that Chinese distrust of Western intervention lay behind the veto, which drew condemnation from Western governments with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling it a "travesty".

"The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate and numbers of civilian casualties keep rising," the newspaper, which echoes government thinking, said in the commentary.

"Vetoing the draft Security Council resolution does not mean we are giving free rein to letting this heart-rending state of affairs continue."

The author of the commentary used the pen name "Zhong Sheng", which can mean "voice of China" and is often used to give the government's position on foreign policy.

Call for withdrawal

The conflicting Chinese and Western positions on Syria exposed a more general rift about how China should use its rising influence and whether it should foresake its long-standing, albeit unevenly applied, principle of non-interference in other countries' domestic conflicts.

Russia and China's veto came a day after activists say that Syrian forces bombarded a district of the city of Homs, killing more than 200 people in the worst bloodshed of the 11-month Syrian uprising.

All 13 other members of the Security Council voted for the resolution, which also called for a withdrawal of Syrian troops from towns and the beginning of a transition to democracy.

But China, not its Western critics, acted "responsibly" for the sake of the Syrian people, the People's Daily said in the commentary.

"Currently, the situation in Syria is extremely complex. Simplistically supporting one side and suppressing the other might seem a helpful way of turning things around, but in fact it would be sowing fresh seeds of disaster," said the paper.

China's siding with Russia over Syria could add to irritants with the United States. Vice President Xi Jinping is due to visit there next week, burnishing his credentials as the Communist Party's likely next top leader.

Western sanctions

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said she was "disgusted" by Russia and China's vetoes.

"Any further bloodshed that flows will be on their hands," she said.

China and the United States have also sparred over Iran, which faces tightened Western sanctions over its nuclear ambitions.

The People's Daily laid bare broader Chinese concerns about US-backed action in the Arab world and beyond. China is one of the five permanent UN Security Council members that hold the power to veto resolutions.

In March, China abstained from a Security Council vote that authorised Western military intervention in Libya.

The resolution became the basis for a Nato air campaign that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, despite misgivings from Beijing and Moscow about the expanded campaign, which they said went beyond the resolution.

Libya model

"I think that, whatever the [Syria] resolution may have said on paper, both China and Russia worried that it could have laid the way for legitimising another armed intervention," said Guo Xian'gang, a senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, a government-run think tank in Beijing.

"Previously, on the Libya issue, China did not exercise a veto, and as a result the Western powers used armed force beyond the UN mandate," Guo, an expert on the Middle East, said.

"If the Libya model was applied to Syria, then it could be applied again and again, so China and Russia were more resolute this time," he said, also citing jitters about Western intentions towards Iran.

The people's Daily cited Libya as well as Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Libya offers a negative case study. Nato abused the Security Council resolution about establishing a no-fly zone, and directly provided firepower assistance to one side," said the People's Daily.

"The calamities of Iraq and Afghanistan should be ample to wipe clear the world's eyes. Forceful prevention of a humanitarian disaster sounds filled with a sense of justice and responsibility," the paper said.

Habitually hostile

"But are not the unstoppable attacks and explosions over a decade after regime change a humanitarian disaster?" it said.

Other Chinese newspapers also rejected Western criticism of China's veto, including the military's Liberation Army Daily and the Global Times, a popular tabloid with an unabashedly nationalist view on international affairs.

"This vote by China was above all a vote on trends on the Middle East," the Global Times said in an editorial.

"The Chinese people are starting to believe that Western opinion is habitually hostile to China and there's no use at all in trying to curry favour."

Read more on:    un  |  bashar assad  |  hilary clinton  |  china  |  syria  |  sanctions  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.