China- Russia alliance and the failure of the American-backed Arab Spring revolutions


China realizes the Syrian regime’s need for it, and thus relies on it to achieve its political and economic goals in the Levant region, including the accumulation of regional influence at the expense of the United States of America.  Accordingly, China can achieve its goals in the Middle East through Syria, through:

China seeks to create opportunities for its companies and investments in order to participate in the reconstruction in Syria, and the Chinese Special Envoy to Syria (Shi Xiaoyan), affirming that:

 “China is confident that it will form part of the reconstruction process after the end of the war in Syria, and Chinese has a long-term goal of expanding its economic power and establishing military bases in the region”

Here, we find that at the international and regional political level, (Syrian geography is one of the fields of international scramble between China, Russia and Iran, in the face of the West led by the United States of America). Given its proximity to all spheres of influence in the Middle East. Here, we find that (Syria’s distinguished geopolitical position) has reinforced the increasing presence of China in the Middle East through Syria as a strategic goal for Beijing’s sphere of influence. Here, Beijing views the Assad’s regime as a (factor of stability facing the expansion of religious extremism).

In addition, the increase in Chinese tensions with the United States, due to Washington’s creation of defense and economic alliances directed against China in the heart of its areas of influence, such as: (the Quad Alliance and the Aukus Defense Alliance), was an urgent motive for China to be near the areas of American influence in the region.  Therefore, (China sought to integrate the Syrian regime with the (Belt and Road initiative), and tried to take advantage of the urgent reconstruction needs in Damascus, to establish a Chinese foothold in the heart of the Levant, and to strengthen its influence in the Middle East through Syria.

China’s arrival in (the Syrian ports of Tartus and Latakia, overlooking the Mediterranean), is an attractive opportunity for the Chinese “Belt and Road initiative”, to link the Eurasia region with Syria and its extensions to the People’s Republic of China. Thus, it will be completed by (Beijing’s foothold in the Greek port of Piraeus and Israeli ports, such as: “Haifa and Ashdod”), and this link highlights Syria’s position on the Silk Road, according to the Chinese vision. Therefore, (Syria was included in a large number of railways that China is building in the region).

Here, it is expected that China will move more to (benefit from the American withdrawal from Syria, as part of Beijing’s greater efforts to expand its presence in the Arab Gulf and Middle East regions).  China has also become more willing to access (the region’s markets and the shores of the Mediterranean close to the Syrian border, with the aim of consolidating its economic project for the Belt and Road), by promoting Chinese investments and delivering them to the world.

China and Russia were also keen to create (international political consensus in Syria), through (their efforts made at the United Nations to protect the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad, and to confront Western and American influence in the region). We find here that the Chinese actions come partly within the framework of (a cover for its broader Middle Eastern ambitions), and the Chinese presence in Syria can be analyzed by identifying the main goal of China regarding (its desire to obtain a military foothold in Syria, despite Washington’s knowledge of the Chinese plan). But, it didn’t seek a real confrontation with Chinese influence.

This brings us to an important point, which is (arms sales to expand Chinese influence), considering that the Middle East is a region of “intensive competition between the great powers, at a time when the United States of America is trying to adjust its position in the region, and perhaps change its strategy and reduce its presence as well”, that I have announced beforee, so both (Russia and China tried to take advantage of the vacuum behind the gradual US withdrawal from Syria).

In the context of (the new Russian-Chinese security and defense strategy in Syria), and here Russia began launching a campaign of harassment against the American and Western forces affiliated with the “international coalition” in Syria, with a long-term goal that leads to the expulsion of the United States from Syria.  Skirmishes increased with the American side to force it to withdraw gradually from Syria, especially with (the Russian forces stopping the American military convoy in northeastern Syria, and returning it to its place of departure, considering that it violated the “disengagement” agreement, an agreement concluded by Russia and the United States of America, since the beginning of the conflict and their operations in Syria in 2015), the aim of which is to prevent any accidents between the forces of the two countries, but the “US Pentagon” refused to comment on this incident.

We find that Sino-Syrian cooperation extends to joint security and diplomatic fields. China has stood by Syria in the Security Council, and China has not hesitated to (use its veto several times with Russia to support the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad). Beijing is also coordinating with Damascus in the field of (fighting extremism and eliminating terrorism and its extensions inside China in the Xinjiang region, especially after the participation of more than five thousand Uyghur Muslim fighters in the Syrian war alongside ISIS).

Here, the Chinese and Russian influence in Syria and the expulsion of the United States of America from it paves the way for activating the (Iranian plan to establish a corridor to the Mediterranean through Syrian ports), and emphasizing the importance of this Iranian corridor to the Chinese Silk Road Initiative, especially as it passes through Syria, Iraq and Iran. Therefore, the Chinese interest in developing the Syrian railways and ports comes as a prelude to linking them with regional neighboring countries, such as: (Lebanon, Iraq and Iran), which (contributes to reconstruction and economic development).

Hence, Beijing and Damascus signed cooperation agreements in several fields, and (Chinese investments in Syria find an outlet in Iran’s ports, through the arrival of the “Silk Road” to the Khorramshahr region in Iran), and from here China plans  for (linking its investments in Iraq and transferring it to Syria and vice versa, then to the rest of the countries in the region and its ports on the Mediterranean or through railway networks and highways that connect everyone).

The construction of a railway between Iran, Iraq and Syria with Chinese support began in November 2018, as part of the (reconstruction of the Middle East funded by China and Russia, and eventually linked it to the Syrian port of Latakia, as a hub on the Mediterranean Sea, emphasizing that “the railway system  In Iran, it is linked to railways in Central Asia, China and Russia), and if the Shalamcheh-Basra railway line is built with a length of 32 km, Iraq can transport goods and passengers to Russia and China and vice versa. This line will form the first stage, and the second stage is scheduled to be a 1545 km long railway and a highway to the Syrian port.

Therefore, China seeks to be present in (Syria’s ports to link it with Chinese maritime influence in general in the Middle East and Mediterranean countries), where (China is actually present in three actual ports on the Mediterranean, which are ports: Haifa and Ashkelon in Israel, and Mina Piraeus in Athens, Greece). And here, it should be pointed out that the (American pressures that is being put on Israel to prevent Beijing from using the port of Haifa). Israel had previously rejected a contract worth one and a half billion dollars offered by China to build a power plant after the United States of America warned its other allies in the Middle East against accepting Chinese investments, so China has chosen the other (countries that aren’t aligned with the United States of America to invest in, most notably Syria).

China is looking for “investment in the Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartus, and is looking for more maritime influence in Syria on the borders of the Mediterranean, after its fears of losing its maritime influence in the Israeli port of Haifa due to American pressure on Israel”. In October 2018, China provided assistance in the form of electric power generators to the Syrian port of Latakia, which indicates its desire to invest there, to ensure a position of maritime influence overlooking the Mediterranean ports.  Therefore (China is keen to invest in the ports of Lebanon, especially Beirut, not for its direct financial returns, but to complement the “Silk Road” project, and to secure an outlet for it on the Mediterranean coast, by linking Syrian ports with their Lebanese counterparts).

Therefore, (China’s regional participation between Iran, Iraq and Syria on the broader “New Silk Road” is of great importance to link them all together through port and railway networks), especially since Iraq had previously signed a memorandum of understanding in September 2019, to join the  “Belt and Road Initiativ”  as a part of a new oil-for-infrastructure program. This plan includes (China’s rebuilding of the war-torn region under a multi-stage program of hard infrastructure, like: railways, roads, power and water projects, and soft infrastructure, such as: hospitals, schools, cultural centers on the Iraqi side).

Also (the “Four Seas” strategy, which was first announced by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2004, and was sabotaged by the Arab Spring revolutions), has finally returned to work, after 7 countries signed to join it, by 2010. This maritime strategy entails (connecting all four major water systems “the Mediterranean / Caspian Sea / Black Sea / Persian Gulf” with each other through railway corridors and infrastructure as a motive for the win-win cooperation of the Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian and Chinese sides with the countries of the region and the Middle East), according to Chinese planning. Once these four seas are connected (Syria will become is the main intersection point in investments and transportations) in the region.

The most important point here is the assertion of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad that (the Syrian military, security, political and economic decision has become dependent on the Russians, Iranians and Chinese), with the Syrian regime aspiring to greater interests to gain through a greater strengthening of the Chinese presence in Syria. Therefore, China sought to prove its presence in the Middle East through the Syrian gate, and to prove (the failure of the US-backed Arab Spring revolutions). Therefore, Chinese economic support has become an outlet for the Syrian regime to support it, as well as strengthening the Chinese alliance with both (Russia and Iran) through Syria.

    Based on the previous analysis, we can understand that the reasons for Chinese support when Syrian President “Bashar Al-Assad” assumed the presidency position of the Syrian Republic for a new term in May 2021, at a time when “Bashar Al-Assad” exaggerated the Chinese-Syrian relationship as a way to prove that he is not politically isolated, and that he has a number of (potential partners to support reconstruction efforts in Syria), with China’s continued efforts since the start of the Syrian revolution in providing various forms of humanitarian aid and financial grants, and China’s support for the Syrian regime to confront the Corona virus pandemic (Covid-19), through medical aid and vaccines against the virus.

Dr.Nadia Helmy
Dr.Nadia Helmy
Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit


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