Since the start of the conflict in Syria, Russia and China have each opposed three UN veto attempts to increase pressure on Damascus. One of our Observers in China, writing anonymously, deciphers his government’s policies and the Chinese media’s portrayal of the issue. 

“China finds a way to oppose anything related to human rights and supported by the West”

Tai (not his real name) is one of our Observers in China.
It is of course no surprise that China opposes the attempted UN veto against Syria. The Chinese government had already opposed the sanctions against North Korea [editor’s note: China, an ally of North Korea, had long supported dialogue with North Korea. Nonetheless, in April 2012, China voted for a series of sanctions against the North Korean nuclear programme], had opposed sanctions against Iran, and had abstained from voting on the UN resolution on an intervention in Libya.
Chinese authorities justify their decision against the veto by invoking the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states, but this is just an excuse. The Chinese position is always to support totalitarian regimes. I see the Chinese government as being an accomplice to the repression inflicted by the Syrian regime on its own people. Dictatorships have an unspoken agreement, part of which is to unite against the international community and to not meddle in the domestic affairs of other dictatorships. In a sense, the Chinese government espouses the philosophy that the “enemies of my enemies are my friends.” As a result, China finds a way to oppose anything related to human rights and supported by the West.
A headline on the front page of the Global Times: “The West seeks an excuse to launch a unilateral military campaign. American special forces are getting ready. The West is keeping an eye on Syria’s chemical weapons.”
The Global Times, which is the international version of the People’s Daily, the Communist party’s newspaper, has a very clear opinion on the Syria question. For instance, an editorial published on July 21 was titled “No one must applaud the western contortionists.” In other words: the West is tricking the Syrians by selling them its own ideals, but only to better impose itself on their country. The following is an excerpt from the article: “The Western powers are taking advantage of the fact that public opinion is on their side to speak ill of China and Russia. (…) In their cushy, modern offices, these western leaders relentlessly invoke the values of morality and liberty, but it is the poor Syrians who must fight the battle to realise these ideals. (…) Yet, after the change in the Syrian constitution [Editor’s note: February’s constitutional reform allowed political pluralism], it has become possible for Syria to undergo a peaceful democratic transition. However, the West prefers to push Syria to take a shortcut — one that will prove to be bloody and violent.”
The headline of another article from the Global Times recently read: “China must not be tricked by the West on Syria.” The article explains that the “source of China’s power is its people’s solidarity. With this immense power, each foreign policy supported by China will be very difficult to counteract. And all the world’s powers must fear us. (…) The West believes that the universal values it peddles have penetrated Chinese society and that they must influence China’s diplomatic positions. But this is wrong: the Chinese cannot be tricked so easily, and they resent the West’s too-frequent military interventions.”
In contrast, one can find blog posts that oppose the veto, like the following excerpt from Yan Changhai [Editor’s note: a Chinese author based in Shenzhen]: “All dictators use violence to oppress their people. Thus, I consider popular armed revolt to be self-defence. The fight for liberty and dignity is a just one. (…) The viewpoint of these authoritarian regimes has not really changed since the intervention in Libya last year. The economy is not, here, the crucial element [for the Chinese government]. The most important issue is that the Damascus regime not be overthrown, so that democratic elections cannot be organised, as occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. It’s still the same old fear that the Arab Spring will spill over into other authoritarian regimes, where people might in turn ask to elect their own leaders. Gaddafi’s regime fell - and he was executed - despite support from authoritarian governments; so, the Chinese government might support Assad this time around, but the changes in Syria are inevitable.”