China Warmly Welcomes Leader Shunned by the US

Syria's Bashar al-Assad visits as Beijing tries to strengthen its influence in the Mideast
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 21, 2023 12:39 PM CDT
Syria's Assad Gets Warm Welcome in China
In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Syrian President Bashar Assad and first lady Asma Assad receive a bouquet of flowers from a young girl as they arrive in Hangzhou, China, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023.   (Huang Zongzhi/Xinhua via AP)

Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived in China on Thursday on his first visit to the country since the start of Syria's 12-year conflict, one in which Beijing has been one of his main backers. China's Foreign Ministry said Assad would join other foreign leaders attending the opening ceremony of the Asian Games, an international sports event beginning Saturday in the eastern city of Hangzhou, per the AP. China has been expanding its reach in the Middle East after mediating a deal in March between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and it continues to support Assad in the Syrian conflict, which has killed half a million people and left large parts of the nation in ruins.

The New York Times makes a similar point: The visit comes as "China seeks to present itself as a powerful influence in the Middle East, and a partner to nations that are shunned by the United States and the West." Assad and Chinese President Xi Jinping were set to meet for "in-depth talks" on a range of issues, said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning. China could play a major role in the future in Syria's reconstruction, which is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars. Syria last year joined China's Belt and Road Initiative in which Beijing expands its influence in developing regions through infrastructure projects.

Since Syria's conflict began in March 2011 with pro-democracy protests and later turned into a civil war, Iran and Russia have helped Assad regain control of much of the country. China has used its veto power at the UN eight times to stop resolutions against Assad's government, the latest in July 2020. Assad has been on a recent push to try to restore Syria's image in the world, though his government is accused of war crimes.

(More Syria stories.)

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