Contrary to expectations, China would still prefer to wait to expand its areas of economic and investment cooperation with Syria. Beijing has maintained this position despite its frank political stance since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, a country it has supported by using its veto power in the Security Council on almost 16 occasions.
Whatever the reasons, the escalation of the U.S.-China dispute — which culminated in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan — raises questions about whether this development will change China’s foreign policy approach to some regional and international files. This includes, of course, the Syrian file.
So far, there are no indications that can be built upon in inferring the contours of China’s new orientation after the recent Taiwan crisis. Practically speaking, however, there are multiple views on this issue.
One view is that Beijing is merely waiting for the political situation in Syria to improve so that China can boost the bilateral economic relationship. China believes that Syria is important in the success of the One Belt, One Road project, as well as the large scale of economic opportunities that exist in Syria following the bitter years of war. These opportunities exist especially in the construction, energy, and technology sectors.
Another view is that the recent U.S. escalation with China will prompt Beijing to review its foreign relations with countries that politically support China in its position on the Taiwan crisis and support Chinese sovereignty over the island. At the same time, these are countries that Washington has demonstrated hostility toward, always trying to destabilize them. Moreover, in the Syrian case especially, the strengthening of China’s economic presence is a natural extension of Beijing’s policy of expanding Chinese presence in the region — from the Gulf states, to Jordan and Egypt, to Lebanon, Iraq, and others.
In light of the faltering or slowing down of Russian and Iranian investments in some places, the opportunity seems to be open in all sectors for Chinese companies. About a year ago, during the visit of the Chinese Foreign Minister and his delegation to Damascus, the Syrian side presented a range of projects with a strategic dimension related to the Chinese One Belt, One Road project. These included projects in the transport sector about the implementation of a project to link the railway between the port of Tartous and the Iraqi border, as well as the construction of a highway from south to north.
The Syrian representatives also proposed projects for cooperation in the sectors of electricity generation, oil and gas exploration, as well as the establishment of Chinese free zones in the Hassia and Latakia expansion regions. The Syrian side focused on the regional dimension of these projects, in line with the spirit of the One Belt, One Road Initiative. Damascus also hopes to capitalize on the possibility of Chinese funding to implement its own projects.
As for the private sector, businesses from both countries have many opportunities for joint cooperation. These opportunities have been expressed multiple times, with proposals for important projects such as the establishment of an oil refinery, a cement plant, and other such infrastructure.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.