By: YANG Jianli
February 5, 2012

On February 4, 2012, the Chinese permanent representative to the U.N. Li Baodong, together with the representative of the Russian government, vetoed the UN Security Council’s Syrian resolution. This dramatically increases the difficulty of working towards a peaceful settlement, causing the international community, and especially the people of Syria, much disappointment, anger, and even condemnation.

Just two weeks earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin spoke positively when answering reporters’ questions on the Syrian situation. He gave three key points, saying that the Chinese side (1) supports a solution for Syria within the framework of the League of Arab States, (2) supports the Arab League’s constructive efforts to promote the Syrian political settlement process, and (3) hopes the Arab League Observer Mission continue to perform their duties in Syria, through the joint efforts of all parties concerned, to create conditions for properly resolving the Syrian issue.”

Yet the Chinese government voted against the Arab League’s draft resolution. It should be pointed out that the draft as presented was extensively compromised in order to keep the support of China and Russia. During negotiations, stronger terms in the resolution were deleted, such as asking Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to his Vice President, requiring the government and the opposition to enter into a serious dialogue with each other, and the formation of a coalition government. Fully supporting this draft initiative of the Arab League would have been well within China’s stated intent to “support … constructive efforts to promote the Syrian political settlement process.” Instead of support, however, the Chinese government has gone back on its own words, citing ‘concerns’ that “one-sided pressure on the Syrian government prejudge dialogue results, any imposed solution will not help Syria’s problem be resolved, but may lead to further complicating the situation” and other such empty excuses.

The Chinese government’s action has denied the considerable efforts of the Arab League to negotiate an end to the crisis, set the Syrian people a day closer to many more deaths, and intentionally created a dilemma for the international community. This two-faced approach allows us to see that the Chinese government cares nothing about justice in dealing with international issues, lacks a basic sense of fairness and responsibility in world affairs, and has completely lost its credibility.

There are more than 20 member states of the Arab League, most of which are on friendly terms or even have a close relationship with China. At the same time, Chinese demand for oil has China seeking to develop covenants with the Arab League of “mutual respect, equal treatment, mutually beneficial cooperation, and [to] seek common development and mutual support in international affairs. “

In Arab League countries, most people believe in Islam. On issues of “national security”, Arab League countries have little conflict with China’s culture and political systems. In the international arena, Arab League nations rarely publicly criticize China’s human rights records, unlike in Western countries where China is viewed as a potential threat. For the Chinese government with its limited influence in that sphere, framing the Syrian solution to the League of Arab States can reduce the role played by the West to a certain extent. But the Chinese government did not expect that, due to the Syrian ruler’s stubbornly holding on to power and wantonly killing people day after day, the Arab League after the field survey of its observers, and based on the needs of peace and basic human rights, would ask Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power. This request and the Arab League’s participation in drafting the resolution apparently went beyond the expectations of the Chinese rulers. Their fig leaf simply ripped off on the spot. The clearly stated intent of working “within the framework of the League of Arab States to solve the problem” was therefore replaced by a UN Security Council permanent member’s veto.

If Russia’s veto had its economic interests and military considerations in mind, China’s veto is based totally on its values. The Chinese government’s values no longer conflict only with the West, but also with that of the Arab League countries. As these conflicting values continue to take shape, we can see their formation is that of a conflict with the entire human race (their own citizens included). At the heart of the conflict is whether to respect the universal human values of civil rights, democracy and freedom.

The veto by the Chinese and Russian governments caused a great uproar of the international community. UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon expressed regret that the resolution was not passed. The U.S. ambassador to the UN was disgusted, and questioned China’s U.N. ambassador on the spot. But what is it so surprising?! Chasing after Russia in flagrant defiance of world opinion, and cheering for the Syrian dictator butcher, the Chinese government’s approach may seem silly but is not in violation of its own consistent “style” in dealing with international issues: encourage autocratic countries and disrupts the international democratic forces. This behavior in light of the democratization processes has been repeatedly on public display in the case of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya and other countries. No need to say more.

It makes me recall during the NGO Summit last September, when human rights activists from the Middle East and African countries told me that they strongly support human rights and democracy in China, because China is THE supporter for some small authoritarian states. Last December in Prague at the Forum 2000, Iran’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi very clearly expressed the same view to me. The U.N. vote on February 4 proves once again their point. The democratization of China is, therefore, not only a necessity for the Chinese people, but also for the cause of human peace and development.
Finally, as many online friends said after the U.N. vote, as a Chinese citizen I oppose the veto cast by the Chinese Government. It is not the action of a government representing myself. As a Chinese, I would like to express my deepest regret to those peace and democracy loving Syrians – the Syrians who were killed and those who are still facing the threat of death every day.