China no-go: Why force Syria vote amid UN disputes?

Members vote on a resolution on Syria in the United Nations Security Council during a meeting on Syria February 4, 2012 at the United Nations in New York (AFP Photo / Don Emmert)
China says it was forced to veto a United Nations vote on Syria because it was called before differences over the text had been bridged. Both state-run media and country’s foreign ministry spokesman defended the decision.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a regular news conference that the vote on the UN resolution was forced through before all parties had agreed on the draft document. He also rejected criticism that China was favoring the government of President Bashar Assad, whose regime has vowed to press on with its military crackdown.

"China actively participated in the draft version of the UN resolution. But unfortunately the proposing nation, despite major disputes among various countries, forced a vote," he said. “Such practices do not help maintain the unity and authority of the UN Security Council, nor do they help to properly solve the issues."

"On the issue of Syria, China is not sheltering anyone, nor do we intentionally oppose anyone. We uphold justice and take a responsible attitude. Our goal is to make sure that Syrians are spared from violent conflict and war, not to complicate the issue."

The People's Daily, the top newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, echoed Liu Weimin’s words saying: "Currently, the situation in Syria is extremely complex. Simplistically supporting one side and suppressing the other might seem a helpful way of turning things around, but in fact it would be sowing fresh seeds of disaster."

China says the resolution put undue emphasis on pressuring the Syrian government and prejudged the result of any dialogue between the parties in Syria. However, the newspaper specifically underlines that by vetoing the UNSC draft, China is not “giving free rein to letting this heart-rending state of affairs continue."

An article defending China’s position was published in the People’s Daily on Monday under the pen name "Zhong Sheng," which literally means “Voice of China.” It is often used to give the government's position on foreign policy, reports Reuters.

China and Russia have drawn the wrath of the United States and Europe for the weekend veto, which they say blocked a UN attempt to end nearly 11 months of bloodshed, raising fears that the violence will escalate.

But Omar Nashabe, a professor at the Lebanese American University of Beirut, says Russia and China have the foresight to allow more time for the regime and the opposition to come to negotiations.

Nashabe says Russia and China are trying “to stick to the United Nations as an organization that works for peace and encourages dialogue.”

“If you remove the central government, then there will be chaos all over Syria… and there will be a situation almost impossible to control, and the whole region will sink into more bloodshed.”

And Russia has sufficient knowledge of the region to understand that,  Nashabe said.

The Syrian uprising, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts, began in March and almost instantly met with escalating violence. The UN’s latest estimates put the number of people killed during the unrest at 5,400. In January the UN had to stop assessing the toll, since the Arab country remains closed to most journalists and the data could not be independently verified. The Syrian opposition says most people died in a brutal military crackdown ordered by President Bashar Al-Assad. Assad maintains he is fighting an armed insurgency sponsored from abroad.