China Military Joins Syria War Debate and Displays New Weapons at Home

The Chinese military has released an analysis of a new, deadly stage in the ongoing war in Syria, where it has chosen to side with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Beijing developed powerful weapons and held exercises meant to show off the country’s growing might.

China Military Online, the official website of China’s armed forces, published Wednesday an article detailing the competing narratives over a failed ceasefire attempt in Syria, where Russia has joined the military in bombarding the insurgent-held suburb of eastern Ghouta, outside of Damascus. While China was not believed to be actively fighting for Assad, it has offered the Syrian leader diplomatic support even as Western powers called for his departure.

Related: China may be the biggest winner of all if Assad takes over Syria

As civilian casualties mounted in the eastern Ghouta offensive, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2401 on Sunday, calling for a 30-day ceasefire throughout the country. Russia then ordered a daily, five-hour “humanitarian pause” to allow civilians to exit eastern Ghouta, but accused rebels and jihadis of attacking the designated crossing points on the first day of the pause Tuesday. The U.N. and pro-opposition activists claimed Syrian aircraft kept attacking throughout the temporary truce. Meanwhile, China called for all sides to respect the U.N. resolution.

“It is the seventh year of the Syrian civil war. In order to end the humanitarian catastrophe, all relevant parties should patiently hold consultations, shelve disputes, actively seek consensus and strive to fully implement the cease-fire resolution passed by the U.N. Security Council,” the Chinese analysis read.

RTX4YG3W Syrian Arab Republic Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari speaks with China’s Ambassador to the U.N. Ma Zhaoxu before the start of a U.N. Security Council meeting on Syria at U.N. headquarters in New York, on February 22. China has joined Russia in defending Syria against Western powers, such as the U.S., at the U.N. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

In the early years of the war, China and Russia defended the Syrian government by using their privilege as permanent U.N. Security Council members to veto actions against Assad. As Russia intervened to defend the embattled Syrian military and its allies, which included a number of Iran-backed militias, China continued to supply weapons, and as the Syrian government reclaimed much of the country, Beijing has begun to invest in the country’s reconstruction.

“Political settlement is the only way to fundamentally end the suffering of the Syrian people. The international community should support all Syrian parties, under the mediation of the U.N., as soon as possible through a political process owned and led by the Syrian people to find solutions acceptable to all parties,” the analysis continued.

Syria, a country located at the crossroads of the Middle East and the Mediterranean, has strategic value for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. The ambitious project has sought to bolster and expand China’s historic trade routes across Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond, even tying in the Americas.

RTX4YUJD A map shows areas of control in Ghouta, near Damascus and other parts of Syria, as of February 22. Russia, Syria and forces backed by Iran have made gains amid a massive bombardment of the insurgent-held suburb outside Damascus, while rebels and jihadis have shelled the nearby Syrian capital. INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR/REUTERS

RTS1634E A map, published March 24, 2017, shows the projects subsumed under China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative as of March 2015. MERCATOR INSTITUTE FOR CHINA STUDIES/REUTERS

With the establishment of this global economic endeavor have come Xi’s promises of a more effective military capable of backing Chinese interests around the world. In the past few weeks, China has shown off new stealth jets and conducted air patrols, which the official People’s Liberation Army Daily said “dare to shine the sword” of the country’s military might off China’s coasts, as Reuters reported Wednesday.

Leaked photos, though they have not been verified, have convinced some Chinese military experts that the country’s navy has built the world’s first warship-mounted rail gun, a powerful electromagnetic weapon that even the U.S. has struggled to bring to sea.

China’s military rise has been met with criticism in Washington, which disputed Beijing’s sprawling territorial claims in the Pacific. The U.S. has accused China of building artificial islands hosting military installations and both have deployed warships to patrol the tense waters of the South China Sea.