China's Ambassador Li Baodong (front) votes during a UN Security Council meeting on an Arab-European draft resolution on Syria backing an Arab League plan which demands a regime change in the Middle East country, New York February 4, 2012. [Photo/Xinhua]
Beijing was once again criticized by the media, academics and Western politicians following its veto of the United Nations Security Council's resolution on Syria on February 4. These strongly-worded criticisms, however, have no basis in legitimacy. Current and potential future Syrian tensions should be blamed on the West rather than on China or Russia. And humanitarian intervention is, despite its apparent benignness and noble-sounding intentions, actually part of the problem rather than the solution.
There is perhaps no other value system which sounds more beautiful in the modern world than the West's, comprising democracy, liberty and humanitarianism. But it is also true that no other value system has resulted in so many international interventions which have caused so many problems. Global peace and stability have been significantly undermined over the past two decades in the name of humanitarianism and promoting democracy. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya are all examples of this.
There is nothing wrong with these concepts in themselves. The problem lies in the fact that in these recent interventions, the concepts themselves have been abused and misrepresented. Non-Western scholars, and even a number of Western scholars, agree that the recent Western interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya stemmed more from geopolitical motives than genuine humanitarian concerns. These interventions have caused more humanitarian crises than the authoritarian regimes they sought to topple. It is certainly reasonable to place blame on these regimes, however, it is equally reasonable to blame the so-called humanitarian interventions.
Syria is no different from many non-oil-producing Arab countries. It has neither a political system that can sufficiently address the interests and the concerns of all Syrian people, nor an economy that can adequately satisfy the needs of its citizens. However, these domestic problems cannot fully explain Syria's current domestic tensions. From the very beginning of the so-called "Arab Spring", the United States has been standing on "the right side of history"; in other words, it has supported the street-level uprisings.
The open encouragement for anti-government forces in Arab countries, including Syria, from the U.S., together with other Western countries, has provided these forces with continuous momentum. The fact that U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton met Syrian opposition leaders twice a week illustrates the point.
It is somewhat naïve to assume that, with regard to the situation in Syria, the actions of the U.S., the West and even the Arab League have been motivated by humanitarian concerns and the desire to see a fairer, democratic Syria. If humanitarian crises are genuinely such a concern, they would have more legitimacy for an intervention in Bahrain's domestic crisis, marked by the conflicts between peaceful, unarmed protesters and armed government forces. If they seek to replace authoritarian regimes with democratic systems, they have more reasons to intervene in the Gulf monarchies, which are no less authoritarian than the Syrian regime.
The so-called "Arab Spring" actually tells two stories. While many analysts describe it as an internal quest for change in the Arab world, in reality, various actors are actually competing for geopolitical influence, or even dominance. The Libyan war allowed the West to dispose of Muammar Qaddafi, one of the leaders it regarded as radical.
Such interventions may, in part, be motivated by humanitarian concerns. However, this should not be regarded as the prime motivating factor. Syria's fault does not lie in its domestic problems but in its foreign policy. Neither the West nor the Arab League, which is now under the control of the Gulf countries, is happy with Syrian President Bashar Assad's alliance with Iran. Their ultimate aim is to change Syrian foreign policy by changing the Syrian leadership, which would further isolate Iran. Replacing President Assad has become the common interest of the West and the Arab League.
China has always approached Middle Eastern affairs through its peaceful development strategy, which is guided by the basic principle of non-interference. The best way to stop the current humanitarian problem from getting worse is to ensure the cessation of violence between government and opposition forces. China's veto does not indicate partiality toward either side in the Syrian conflict. Instead, it signals China's support for a resolution through dialogue. China has also expressed its hope that the Syrian government will respect the wishes of its citizens. Any claims that China is responsible for the worsening situation are entirely groundless.
The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit http://www.china.org.cn/opinion/jinliangxiang.htm
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