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Vishal Kisan Kamble asked: What are China's interests in Syria?

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  • P.K. Pradhan replies: Syria is an important country for China in the West Asian region. While the region has been dominated by the USA, other powers like China and Russia have been vying for influence among the countries in the region. The recent conflict in Syria and China’s use of veto on the resolutions against the Assad regime has brought to fore the Chinese actions and interests in the country. For China, Syria is a strategic ally in the troubled region and in recent times both the countries have attempted to strengthen their relationship.

    China enjoys good relationship with Iran as well and at times has tried to take advantage of Iran’s close ties with Syria in strengthening its foothold in the region. Thus, strategically, China’s relationship with regimes like Iran and Syria challenges the traditional American dominance in the region. It also makes clear the Chinese intention of playing a role in the troubled region, though the Chinese leaders shy away of making such statements in public. During the vote on the Syrian issue in the UN Security Council, China was opposed to the use of force for regime change and had demanded a peaceful settlement of the conflict through dialogue and consultation, which shows that they have stakes involved with the current regime.

    On the economic front, China is an important trading partner of Syria. The bilateral trade is heavily in favour of China. In 2011, China’s exports to Syria totalled US$ 2.4 billion, while imports from Syria stood at US$ 26 million. China also has stakes in Syria’s oil industry with the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) signing huge deals for exploration and developmental activities in the country. Furthermore, China intends to use Syria, given its geographical proximity with the EU, Africa and other West Asian countries, as a trading hub for its products.