A curious thing has occurred since both China and Russia vetoed the draft Security Council resolution on Syria on February 4, which was supported by the remaining 13 members of the Council.
See The Trenchant Observer, “Chinese and Russian Vetoes of 4 February 2012 Security Council Resolution on Syria (including video, text of resolution, break-down of vote, and transcript of proceedings)—Syria Update #4,” February 5, 2012.
Almost all of the criticism of the veto has been directed against Russia, with very little directed against China. It is almost as if the cognitive dissonance is too great, and the world does not want to be confronted with the hard fact that China is supporting this brutal regime, which is committing crimes against humanity on an immense scale.
If Russia had voted for the resolution and China had exercised its veto, the resolution would not have been adopted.
While hardly an excuse, at least Russia arguably has strategic interests in Syria it is trying to protect: a warm-water naval base and port on the Mediterranean at Tartus, a key listening post to intercept electronic communications in the region, significant arms sales commitments, and commercial relationships, in addition to its steadfastness in supporting its last client state in the Middle East.
China has no such interests, but it still vetoed the resolution.
This veto, and China’s vision of its future and contructive role as a Permanent Member of the Security Council, should be one of the central issues discussed by U.S. officials and lawmakers with Xi Jinping during his current visit to the U.S. Xi Jinping is the apparent successor to Hu Jintao, and in all likelihood will lead China for the next ten years, from 2012 to 2022.
At any press conference or in any interview while in the U.S., Xi Jinping should be asked directly to explain why China blocked Security Council action on Syria, given the barbarism and crimes against humanity being committed by the Bashar al-Assad regime every day.
This barbarism has only intensified since China’s veto (with that of Russia). In view of this veto, doesn’t China bear an enormous moral and political responsibility for al Assad’s use of terror against the Syrian people?
What possible justification can China give the world for its veto of the resolution and also that of October, 2011?
Does China as a leading world power feel no obligation to stop the killing and other fundamental human rights violations in Syria?
For a description of what is going on, see the statement to the General Assembly made today, February 13, by Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights:
“Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report of Human Rights Council on Syria, 95th Plenary Meeting – General Assembly,” United Nations Webcast, February 13, 2012.
Reporters should not accept without direct and hard-hitting follow-up questions any answer which is filled with 1970s rhetoric to the effect that “the country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity must be respected,” and “the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter must be respected.”
Of course. But the resolution did not violate any of these principles, and the days are long gone when tyrants can justify bloodbaths behind these shibboleths.
Russia continues to be viewed as the primary obstacle to Security Council action, as suggested by the following quote taken from an account of U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Nivi Pillay’s appearance before the Security Council today.
Efforts by the Arab League and Syrian critics at the United Nations to halt the mayhem in Syria have been effectively blocked by Russia, Mr. Assad’s most powerful foreign ally. Russia signaled its opposition earlier Monday to the Arab League proposal for a joint peacekeeping force with the United Nations, arguing that such a force would be meaningless without a cease-fire.
–Rick Gladstone and Neil MacFarquhar, “U.N. Rights Chief Decries Inaction Over Syrian Assault, “February 13, 2012
Yes, Russia has been acting to block Security Council action.
But would Russia take on the entire international community without China’s support?
Why is China not playing an independent and constructive role, as befits a leading world power, instead of hiding behind Russia?
The Trenchant Observer
REPRISE: China defends Syrian regime committing crimes against humanity, blocking Security Council action—Syria Update #2
(originally published February 5, 2012)
China and Russia on Saturday vetoed a Security Council resolution supporting the Arab League peace initiative and transition plan in Syria, even after it had been watered down to meet their objections. The 13 remaining members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution, including India and South Africa.
Many will now continue to die daily in Syria, as the al-Assad regime seeks to smother civil opposition with brute force and terror.
The obstruction of Security Council action on the issue of Syria, against the wishes of the rest of the international community, is particularly disappointing. Each of the Security Council’s Permanent Members (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States) has enormous responsibility to the world as a whole, not just to the narrow interests of their own country.
It is particularly disappointing to see China in an obstructionist role in the Security Council, just as Hu Jintao’s heir apparent, Xi Jinping, comes to Washington in mid-February. If the world is going to be a reasonably governable place, China will have to assume the role of responsible world leader, not just that of a sheepish follower of Russia which looks the other way as thousands are slaughtered.
For, as noted in an earlier article,
Today we can see clearly the dividing lines between nations, between the democracies and those countries that at least are moving in transitions toward democracy, on the one hand, and those countries such as Libya and Syria which employ terror against their own citizens to retain their hold on power, on the other.
See The Trenchant Observer, “The Struggle for Democracy in Bolivia, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, and Iran,”
March 3, 2011
What has changed is the spread throughout the human population of universal ideals of respect for the human person, observance of fundamental human rights by governments, and a demand for democratic government and accountability. There are new demands for an end to corruption in closed societies, in which new generations see their chances for advancement blocked by those who cling to power by terror and the use of force.
The advent and exponential growth in penetration of the Internet, satellite television, mobile phones, and the ever-quickening pace of technological change itself, particularly in regards to communications and connections among people, have spread ideas and ideals, deepened awareness of events in other parts of the world, accelerated demands for change, and made it increasingly hard to hide acts of barbarism behind walls of secrecy.
The new battle lines have been drawn. Now we can see in sharp relief that our greatest opponents are those who use state terror and other forms of political terror and mass crimes against their own populations to seek or stay in power.
And it is manifest that our truest allies are those governments, groups and individuals which respect the sanctity of the human person, and the fundamental human rights that enable individuals to live together freely and in harmony in democracies governed by the rule of law.
–The Trenchant Observer, “Repression in Syria, and the spread of universal ideals throughout the world,” May 11, 2011
The Chinese veto of the Security Council resolution on Syria on February 4, 2012, on the eve of Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington in mid-February, is an awfully sorry note on which to begin the relationship between the new generation of Chinese leaders led by Xi Jinping and U.S. leaders in Washington.
China can do better than this. We expect China to do better than this.
The Trenchant Observer
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