Like a bad poker player, China showed its hand over the weekend with its UN veto, alongside Russia, of a resolution calling for an end to the violence in Syria. Those vetos blocked any meaningful movement in the UN Security Council that could help put an end to months of horrific bloodshed directed at the Syrian people by their rulers.
On the day before the Chinese and Russian UN ambassadors vetoed a Western-backed resolution on Syria, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad massacred hundreds of people in Homs, a restive city that has become a flashpoint of protest against the regime.
Western nations such as the US, France and the UK, as well as a number of Arab League members and Turkey are pushing hard to either get al-Assad to end the violence or to step down in favor of a successor government that could usher in reconciliation and end a slide into civil war that threatens the region.
However, their pressure has proven fruitless because without UN backing Syrian forces know there is little the rest of the world can do to stop them from massacring their people. That is why it is so important for nations to show a united front in pressuring al-Assad’s regime, with the backing of military power if necessary, to stop the killing.
Sadly, but almost predictably, China is not keen on backing this kind of united stance. In fact, Beijing will do whatever it can to block intervention in Syria, because if the rest of the world can intervene to stop an Arab regime from killing its citizens, what’s to stop that same grouping of countries from doing the same to China one day if Beijing again finds itself in the position where it feels it necessary to kill vast numbers of its own people?
When viewed in this context, China’s veto makes absolute sense. There is long-simmering anger in Tibet and Xinjiang that has flared up into open hostilities on several occassions. So far, Chinese forces have gotten away with killing relatively small numbers of so-called “insurgents,” but what if the situation deteriorates someday? What if an active rebellion does start in a western region of China?
As cold a calculation as it is, the Chinese leadership does not want their acquiescence to a UN Security Council resolution to be used against them for killing fellow citizens.
And that is the face on every card in China’s deck. The Chinese leadership believes they have the right to kill their own people if those people disagree with government policy. To back up this world view, they protect the right of nasty regimes worldwide to do the same. North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Myanmar, Sri Lanka — wherever a government kills its own people, China sends support through official silence, money, aid or arms.
Taiwanese business, political and military leaders should keep this in mind when contemplating accelerated economic ties, peace accords or military-to-military confidence-building mechanisms with China.
China’s ultimate goal with regards to Taiwan is to rule this nation, and Beijing’s veto against the recent Syria resolution shows what Chinese leaders think is a regime’s right to do to its own people.