20:53 GMT +3 hours29 July 2016
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In this photograph taken on November 24, 2011 Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers take part in the Pakistan-China anti-terrorist drill as they wrap up their two-week military exercise in Jhelum, 85 kilometres southeast of Islamabad

What are the Chances of China Deploying Troops to Syria?

© AFP 2016/ AAMIR QURESHI
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Last week, lawmakers adopted China's first-ever dedicated anti-terrorism law. The new law's most interesting provision, as far as foreign observers are concerned, is an article authorizing the Chinese military to take part in counter-terrorism missions abroad. Will China now join the Syrian, Russian and Iranian-led anti-terror campaign in Syria?

On Thursday, commenting on China's new counterterrorism law, and specifically its provision allowing the People's Liberation Army to participate in anti-terrorism operations overseas, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujin emphasized that China has a "proactive" attitude when it comes to international cooperation against terrorism.

Speaking at a regular monthly briefing for reporters, cited by Reuters, Yang explained that in the event that Chinese forces were ever deployed abroad for the purposes of fighting terrorism, it would be in full respect of international norms, including countries' sovereignty.

"Overseas anti-terrorism operations by the military and People's Armed Police must respect the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, adhere to the norms of international relations and fully respect the sovereignty of the country concerned," the spokesman emphasized.

"Going forward, whether or not to send the military and People's Armed Police overseas to fight terrorism, will be arranged in accordance with a unified national plan," he added, without elaborating.

After the law was passed, speculation quickly emerged suggesting that China could deploy its armed forces to Syria to combat jihadist militants, including radicals from the al-Qaeda-backed East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which operates in the western Chinese province Xinjiang. It was earlier reported that militants from this organization had gone to Syria to fight alongside jihadists there, and that some have returned home to carry out attacks in western China. But is there any truth to the rumors? Will China join the anti-Daesh coalition fighting in Syria anytime soon? Not likely, according to Russian journalist Anton Mardasov. 

"It's worth recalling," Mardasov noted, in his article for independent Russian newspaper Svobodnaya Pressa, "that soon after Russia's intervention in the Syrian conflict, the media was filled with reports that a Chinese fleet led by the Liaoning aircraft carrier had passed through the Suez Canal to take part in the war in support of the Syrian government." 

However, the journalist continued, the rumors were soon quashed.

In his own article on the matter of the phantom Chinese aircraft carrier for Russian military newspaper Voyenno-promyshlennyy Kuryer, Alexandr Khramchikhin, the deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, explained that Beijing does not seem prepared to abandon its policy of maintaining good relations with those countries in the region which support the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, some experts, Mardasov noted, believe that China's possible interest in destroying terrorists abroad stems from the fact that like Daesh in Iraq and Syria, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement threatens to separate Xinjiang from China, and to create an Islamic State on its own territory. In Syria, these experts have emphasized, ethnic Uighur jihadists, associated with the al-Nusra Front and Daesh, have their own bases and training centers.

In October, Russian observers discovered photos showing Chinese military jeeps – presumably operated by the Syrian Army, suggesting that this was the first confirmation of the supply of Chinese military equipment to Syrian government forces. This, Russian military blog BMPD suggested, could be a sign that China has abandoned its earlier-stated position that it would not support any party to the conflict militarily.

"In the war in Syria, a large variety of Chinese weapons has been used, including the HJ-8 MANPADS FN-5 anti-tank system, various types of small arms and light weapons. However, in most instances this was a case of weapons transferred to Syrian rebel groups from various Arab armies, or from the Islamists' seizure of Iraqi military supplies. Apparently, now China's position on the question of military and military-technical assistance to Syrian authorities has begun to undergo changes," BMPD wrote at the time.

In an interview for a separate Svobodnaya Pressa piece, Alexei Maslov, the head of the School of Asian Studies at Moscow's Higher School of Economics, explained that after Russia's intervention in the Syrian crisis, Beijing actively pondered whether or not to join the Syrian-Russian anti-Daesh coalition. Ultimately, according to the analyst, the country's leadership decided that such a move would not serve the country's interests.

"More than anything, [such a move would be problematic] from the point of view of the country's image. For many years, China has not taken part in conflicts abroad, fearing that this could lead to a negative reaction, both domestically and abroad," Maslov noted.

Nonetheless, Alexandr Larin, senior research fellow at the Moscow-based Institute of Far Eastern Studies, told Mardasov that the new counter-terrorism law allowing the PLA to conduct anti-terrorism operations abroad will naturally stoke the rumor mill.

"This could be one of the factors which has led some experts and media to get the impression that China may participate in the Syrian conflict. This idea is supported by the fact that on the side of the militants in Syria are a number of Islamist separatists from China's Xinjiang," the expert noted.

However, Larin added that in his view, "Chinese intervention in the Syrian conflict seems very unlikely. Beijing maintains a policy of equidistance in relation to most countries in the world. Accordingly, it has a special line when it comes to the Syrian crisis. China adheres to three principles – a settlement by political means, the combined action of anti-terrorist forces, and humanitarian assistance. I should note that China is in a rather advantageous position, given that the fighting is being carried out by other countries."

"On the whole," the analyst continued, "up to now I have not seen any serious signs that would indicate that Beijing is really going to take part in combat operations in the Middle East. It is clear that China has a profound interest in a stable situation in the region, particularly given it gets much of its oil from countries there (mainly from Iran), and makes serious investments there."

"Moreover," Larin noted, "it is through the Middle East that the [southern route of the] 'New Silk Road' is to extend. This too forces Beijing to smooth out the situation. But the Chinese are unlikely to risk getting involved in the Syrian conflict – moreover via the sending of their troops there, which would mean joining a coalition and automatically receiving rivals and opponents from the other alliances. Thus everything up to now suggests that China will be unlikely to intervene directly in the Syrian war."

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expert analysis, media speculation, analysis, People's Liberation Army, PLA, China, Syria
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  • I think China should get involved. She has a vast army and a few hundred thousand ground troops wouldn't stretch China but would transform the situation on the ground even further. Sryria must not be split.
  • tobi.gelando
    If China would step up in Syria with ground troops it would destroy the terror in the middle east very fast. And the whole World would say thank you China !!
    Lets do it !!
  • peaceactivist2
    Not to mention the necessary world coalition to fight groups destroying world peace, but the Chinese army really need hand-on battlefield experiences. Chinese solders don't have much war experiences except that brief period with the Vietnamese in 1979. Other than that, just shooting and bombing plain fields that no shooting back won't help the soldier much. In order to stand toll competitively with others, China troops really have to involve in some part of the world with real bullets flying their directions to gain meaningful war experiences.
  • I think they should get involved. This country has to be rebuild from scratch in many regions, and to secure the situation before the construction work - for which many Chinese companies could be contracted - they need a strong military presence.
  • jaodernein ilitiofoniate
    Islamic terrorists lead by foreign personnel are trying to take control over a large region...
    Syria? No, the Chinese Xinjiang, where the presence of foreign extremists has been confirmed after the attack of November (50 dead)
    www.reuters.com/article/us-china-security-xinjiang-idUSKCN0T909920151120
    It seems that "someone" is trying to apply the Daesh scheme in rival countries in order to destabilize them with chaos and terrorism...
    But China won't intervene abroad as long as they esteem that they can keep the situation under control, like they did with the "umbrellas revolution" that "someone" tried to start in Hong Kong in "Arab Spring" style
  • in reply topeaceactivist2(Show commentHide comment)
    peaceactivist2, That says a peaceactivist? Well, I hope that the pure possibility of Chinas help for Syria will make the terrorist fly or give up their plans. But the best soldier is that one, who never needs to make a shoot on other persons! Well, maybe the chinese soldiers only protect chinese constructions works in syria.
  • ron
    The only countries who have any backbone to the US/Zionist is Iran and Russia. China is a big flake.
  • karlof1
    I think commitments to the SCO will bring China in as doing so is in its own interest if it really wants it New Silk Road policy to bear fruit. It must do so with regards to Afghanistan, so helping to clear SyRaq will impress India and Pakistan of its serious intentions.

    Russia's coalition is close to getting the Outlaw US Empire ejected from its role in destabilizing the Middle East and China's entry ought to make that a reality. Such an event is certainly in China's national interest, so I see and predict the opposite of the article's cited pundits.
  • Ivan Zadorozhny
    Not likely, China has its hands full fending off American incursions in the South China Sea. Russia covering China back in Syria.
  • King Arturusin reply to (Show commentHide comment)
    Russell, you think? No body care what you think but one thing is for sure that China will never send their troops to Syria because China is aiming in different direction. You are very weak in geopolitics, aren't you?
  • in reply tojaodernein ilitiofoniate(Show commentHide comment)
    jaodernein, Very insightful,Sir !
  • cuttingedge.blacksmith
    The Million-Man March on D.C. had nothing on China's 3 Million Troop Deployment to Aleppo.
  • cast235
    China is a good neighbor to Russia. But NOT a serious military partner. China is all copy cat... You can't trust it's industries for that same reason. Chinese is good neighbor but NEVER a good partner.
    What China wants in terrorism? That Russia does all the dirt work, and then walk triumphantly, calling the parties to negotiate a truce that gets China an upper hand in investments and sales. With those partners, who needs enemies?
    Not long ago what China said? " We joining the conflict at the RIGHT time!". To call all warring parties into China. that wasn't extremely smart. They ALL respond to Russia. NOT to China.
    And yes those are cheap weapons and are NOT so good. They been extensively tested, and the prove is irrefutable. They NOT so good. It will take China some decades to come close to the quality of say U.S or Russian equipment.
    Specially when after the collapse of Soviet Government.. Not Soviet nation as TROLLS believe., U.S made deals with Russia to safeguard scientists, or the whole world would be nuclear space going by now, and in such Russia got a lot of tech and more. That made RF a real power. Mistake? Well west also gt it's share.

    But China is partner on commerce. Not militarily, since China erroneously believe it could TACKLE U.S one on one. China cannot. And if it tries, it will see how fast and brutally, U.S will spear into the capital. leadership will have to RUN!!.. Unless Russia go gets involved or by border.U.S WILL stop on it's tracks. And even retreat.
    About terrorism? China ONLY new laws are to learn from Russia!!! Not to cooperate. Just to sell and learn. Russia should NOT teach high levels. And beware of spying. China was spying on U.S day and night.. Of course all countries do, But China will send a whole army until it succeed. It's fact. and will create super counterfeit to weaken currencies to buy cheap. Germany and U.S and U.k will RIG the markets. Positioning ex employees of say. Goldman Sachs to manipulate. They NOT independent.
    So about anti terror. China MAY help ONLY if a GIANT IF, Russia go ask. IF Russia decides to ask China for a carrier and sorties, then you may see it. And Russia can help coordinate where China is inexperienced. Russia still need to learn to hide intel and place many DUD'S. DUD'S , baits to safeguard the real things. So they grab the wrong things over and over and over. With wrong info. or products.
    LOOK what CIA did in Tehran. Russian Nuke plants plans were messed while in France. Why go to E.U for NOTHING. Build own place to certify yours and NEVER give all originals and keep carbons to verify at last second. They claimed it was to mess with Iran plans.. Bull Horn. Was to prop up that Russian plants were trash.
  • hjordan
    According to this German journalist, ISIS is only afraid of the Israeli Army:
    www.christianpost.com/news/isis-fears-israel-army-german-journalist-spent-10-days-with-isis-reveals-
  • Pablo Jay
    Good article Sputnik. About says it all, I don`t think Syria needs China to get involved its already very congested with too many different interests. China hasn't changed its Public stance which is to NOT interfere in Syria, even if Assad requested it.
  • Matthewbleu2in reply tocast235(Show commentHide comment)
    cast235, Nonsense. Chinese is good neighbor and a good partner. She has never violated any treaty or colonized any country, unlike the untrustworthy US, which colonized so many countries and keeps violating treaty after treaty, the latest being to expand Nato into former Soviet member countries and declare sanction on Iran, based on Iranian testing of missiles, not related to the the Nuclear Deal.

    The US also violated the treaty signed by Tricky Dicky Nixon in 1972 to recognize that Taiwan is part of China. The Taiwan Relation Acts violates that Treaty with China. The US is an untrustworthy partner indeed. The US also invaded Iraq based on lies of WMD and Afghanistan based on 911, which was an inside job.

    President X i pledged that a rich China will never humiliate a poor nation, unlike the US and a powerful China will never bully a weak nation, again, unlike what the US did to Vietnam. Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Grenada and Syria, using US made Al Qaeda and Al Nusra, etc. The US is the member of the new Axis of Evil.

    www.veteranstoday.com/2015/08/09/the-worlds-new-evil-axis

    China has sent men and a woman into space and an explorer to the Moon. She is a nuclear power and has tested for the 6th times a Hypersonic nuclear bomber that can fly at 10 times the speed of sound and can target 8 cities, which the US has no defense.

    Gen MacArthur once warned that the US must never fight a land war in China because US troops will be annihilated by 50 million Chinese troops and militia forces with no mercy.

    All 11 US carrier groups, with over 500 ships will be sunk by EMP bursts over them 250 nm away as soon as the US starts WW3 and all the American GPS will be incinerated by ASATs.

    Then the Hypersonic bombers will totally destroy Washington DC, NY, LA, SF, SD, Anapolis, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Chicago, Miami, Seattle, all the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and all the crop lands in Ohio and cause earthquakes with hydrogen bombs dropping on the San Andreas and The New Madrid Faults, as well as violent explosion from the Super Volcano of Mt Helen, spilling super hot pyroplastic gas flows to incinerate a large part of north west and south west USA.

    The US will be split into two by a swollen Mississippi river from the Gulf to the Great Lake when the New Madrid Fault breaks apart.

    Many huge 200 ft tsunamis with hit the East & West coasts of America when Russian and Chinese Drone Subs laden with hydrogen bombs detonate a hundred miles from the coasts. America will be a wasteland of melted glass.

    Peace is a better option and ww3 is MAD, Mutual Assured Destruction.
  • BlueStar
    The Chinese are not ready to compromise the enjoyment of their new-found wealth, and so has always been fence-sitting. Somehow somewhere someday they will be dragged in whether they like it or otherwise. The earlier they realize this the better for them.
  • Blackie
    China does not bluff
    The older ones still love Mao and hate the US .
    China alone can do the US.
  • Blackie
    US will make defeat easy for China, and taking their guns off them also helps.
    They can say goodbye to their lifestyle choice, and Obama.
    Perhaps a land invasion alone would do it.
  • rogertidy
    It's very unlikely indeed that China will intervene in Syria. It pursues a cautious foreign policy, which means that it seeks cordial relations with as many countries as possible. Furthermore, given that much of its oil comes from the Middle East, it is unlikely to do anything that could sour its relations with any of the countries there.
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