As the largest country in the world and a key competitor to the United States, China, of course, cannot remain aloof from the events in the Middle East. But Beijing diligently demonstrates political neutrality and distances itself from the parties to the conflict. True, the whole world understands that the sympathies of the Chinese leadership are on the side of Bashar al-Assad. In Beijing, they carefully observe the actions of Russia in Syria, and in Washington - the reaction of Beijing.
Professor of the US Naval College Lyle Goldstein pays great attention to the study of China’s reaction to Russian actions in Syria. According to Goldstein, the analysis of the Chinese attitude to the Syrian conflict is very significant - China claims the role of a great power, and neutrality in the Syrian conflict does not mean that Chinese policy cannot influence the future course of events. Goldstein also draws attention to China’s growing interest in Russian actions in Syria.
In 2017, the Academy of Social Sciences of the PRC even published a special study on the armed conflict in Syria and the analysis of actions and positions of Russia. This interest is quite applied in nature and is explained, among other things, by the desire to borrow best practices that may be useful to China itself. It is known that China itself has problems in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR, former East Turkestan), associated with the activation of the Uyghur national movement. Many Uighur militants are fighting in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan in the ranks of radical groups, terrorist acts have already taken place on Chinese soil, which makes it necessary to take into account foreign experience in the fight against terrorists.
China is very interested in Russian participation in the Syrian conflict both from a military and political point of view. Researchers highlight several key findings of the Russian Syrian campaign. Firstly, this is the almost complete destruction of the Islamic State (banned in the Russian Federation), which resulted from the active actions of the Russian aviation, special forces and government forces of Syria. The largest terrorist group that has been terrifying the Middle East for years has been virtually destroyed in Syria. For China, this is an invaluable experience in eliminating a terrorist organization outside the country. Considering that militants from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the PRC are fighting against Assad in Syria, we can say that Russia partially eases the task of China to destroy them.
Secondly, the Russian participation in the hostilities in Syria led to large-scale changes in world politics. Russia was able to take the initiative in its confrontation with the West, which led to a violent reaction from the US and NATO. Washington and Brussels are responding to Russia with new and new sanctions, but Moscow has in fact broken up American plans to overthrow Assad. For the US, this is a colossal fiasco of military-political plans, probably the first since the wars in Indochina, since both the Saddam Hussein, and Muammar Gaddafi, and Slobodan Milosevic were able to be overthrown by the Americans quickly. In Syria, the civil war has been going on for more than 6 years, and it is not possible to defeat the Assad government forces — and the main reason for this is Russia's active position. Moscow views operations in Syria as a preventive defense of Russian interests in the southern direction and does not allow NATO to gain control over Syria.
China’s great interest was also caused by the fact that Russia decided on a military operation in Syria under difficult economic conditions. The West imposed economic sanctions against Russia, currency inflation occurred in the country, incomes and purchasing power of the population decreased, but all these circumstances did not become an obstacle to active participation in the Syrian conflict. Moreover, the fight against terrorism in Syria, as noted by Chinese researchers, has become one of the important ways to rally and mobilize the Russian nation. Contrary to expectations, the rating of the Russian president has grown to the maximum, and even those political forces that have traditionally been in opposition have rallied around the authorities. Thus, participation in the Syrian conflict influenced the internal political situation in the Russian Federation, and moreover, rather in a positive direction.
Special attention is paid by Chinese analysts to the informational aspect of the confrontation between Russia and the West, which has acquired particular importance in the context of the Syrian conflict. The United States and NATO use all the possibilities of their informational arsenal to discredit Russia, but these efforts turn out to be practically meaningless. Inside the country, a rare unanimity in support of foreign policy is demonstrated. Putin can be criticized for some economic problems, but not for confrontation with the West. Anti-Western sentiment has always been characteristic of Russian society, and the Syrian campaign has only strengthened it. Even many critics and opponents of Putin were forced to admit that the president is implementing a foreign policy course that cannot but cause approval in Russian society.
On the foreign policy front, only the EU countries and the US satellites support the anti-Russian campaign. This testifies to the actual failure of the information war unleashed by the West. Moreover, thanks to the Syrian conflict, Russia is finding new, sometimes the most unexpected partners. A typical example is Turkey, which historically was, if not an enemy, then an opponent of Russia.
For a long time, Turkey remained the most important outpost of American influence in Western Asia. Now the situation has changed. The Syrian conflict led to the most serious contradictions in the NATO bloc. Undisguised by Washington support for Kurdish rebels in Syria and the government of Iraqi Kurdistan annoys Ankara very much. For the Turkish authorities, the desire to suppress the Kurdish national liberation movement plays a very large role, it is more important than any allied obligations under NATO.
The relations between Ankara and Washington, Ankara and Brussels are very tense now. Recep Erdogan understands perfectly well that in the West he is hated, but he is trying to play his game and in this game he is forcedly blocked with Russia. The heads and representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran meet to discuss the situation in Syria independently, thereby emphasizing that their countries have a special relationship to Syrian politics and more reason to participate in it than the United States or Western Europe.
The Syrian conflict has strengthened Russia's cooperation with Iran, which, more than ever, has been interested in support from Moscow. Relations with many Arab countries have improved. Interestingly, representatives of the oil monarchies of the Persian Gulf, including both Saudi Arabia and its main opponent, Qatar, have also come to Russia frequently. Egypt also has very smooth and friendly relations. Thus, the Syrian conflict has led to the strengthening of Russia's position in the international arena, since the world is not limited to the countries of the European Union or the United States of America. In Asia, Africa, Latin America, and many European countries, the position and policy of Russia meets, if not complete approval, then at least understanding.
According to Chinese researchers, Russian intervention in the fighting in Syria has led to positive consequences for Europe, which now supports the US anti-Russian sanctions. After all, political stabilization in the Middle East, in which Russia is interested, contributes to reducing the number of refugees and migrants resettling in the countries of Western Europe. That is, the European Union should thank Russia for the antiterrorist operation in Syria, and not create additional obstacles for it.
Russia has done a lot to ensure that the operation in Syria does not become a “new Afghanistan”. The Russian society was very afraid of this, but the country's leadership made the right decision - in Syria, professionals are fighting, receiving a decent reward and consciously making the decision to go to war. Thus, the Russian army receives specialists with a “running in”, who have experience of real combat operations, and under unusual conditions for Russia.
A separate aspect is the application of new methods of warfare, new weapons. Unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic intelligence equipment are actively used in Syria to minimize losses among Russian troops and cause maximum damage to terrorist groups. Given that Russian troops have been in Syria for years, it is possible to note the high combat effectiveness and the losses that are quite modest for difficult conditions.
The American researcher Goldstein, analyzing the Chinese report, of course, criticizes him from the political standpoint of Washington, noting that Chinese scientists are too positive about the actions of Russia in Syria and in the world as a whole. According to the American researcher, China, building up its political ambitions, is interested in Russia's experience precisely because it is going to itself begin to take active steps outside the Middle Kingdom. In this regard, Beijing is very interested in understanding the experience of neighboring Russia.
Indeed, in recent times, China has been showing an increasing interest in expanding its own presence in the most diverse regions of the world. For example, China opened a naval base in Djibouti, a small country in Northeast Africa. Djibouti has long been providing its territory for military and naval bases of other states. But if the French and Americans used the lands of Djibouti before, now it’s the turn of the Chinese.
Ensuring the uninterrupted supply of cheap oil and gas is of great importance for China. For this, Beijing seeks to expand control over the situation in the Middle East. The base in Djibouti, the port in Pakistan’s Gwadar is only the tip of the iceberg of the PRC’s foreign policy. Although China does not send its troops to Syria yet, it is very interested in ousting the Americans from this country and reducing the American military and political presence in the Middle East. For China, the destruction of religious extremism in the Middle East is of decisive importance, since in this way China will protect itself against the terrorist attacks that have already taken place on Chinese territory. To deprive the support of terrorists who are trying to penetrate Chinese Xinjiang, sooner or later, Beijing will have to use force outside of the Middle Kingdom. In order for the use of force to be successful, in China and study the Russian experience of hostilities in Syria.
It is noteworthy that the American researcher, analyzing the Chinese interest in the Syrian campaign, makes a “brilliant” conclusion - allegedly fighting outside the country, in remote areas, can lead China to numerous risks. For some reason, a tendentious professor from a naval college does not see such a future for the USA, Britain or France, it turns out that the use of American, British or French troops in Syria and Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, Mali and Somalia is reprehensible. That is, we are faced with a typical example of a Western ideological model - what is allowed to Washington or London is not allowed to Moscow or Beijing. But in the modern world that has ceased to be unipolar, such a model suffers a complete defeat. And one of the evidences of this defeat is the successful military campaign of Russia in Syria, to which the Chinese have rightly paid attention.
It is time for Pentagon theorists to become accustomed to the changes and realize that China and Russia will no longer listen to the hypocritical advice of the American and British "partners" frantically clinging to the remnants of the system that was formed in the era of colonialism.