The Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, has arrived in China. He landed in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang, ahead of participation in Saturday’s opening ceremony of the XIX Asian Games where he will meet President Xi Jinping. This is what the state network CCTV reports. Additionally, the Syrian president will participate in “various meetings and events” in Beijing and Hangzhou. This is Assad’s first trip to the People’s Republic since anti-government protests erupted in Syria in 2011, soon resulting in a long and bloody conflict.
The Syrian president’s Air China plane was welcomed on the tarmac by music and artists wearing colorful costumes, amidst the waving of the Chinese and Syrian flags, according to images broadcast by CCTV. As mentioned, after the Hangzhou stop Assad will go to Beijing, according to the details released by the Syrian presidency for a series of official meetings, in search of resources to revive an economy in difficulty. China has long provided diplomatic support to Damascus, in particular to the UN Security Council, by virtue of its seat as a permanent member: if on the one hand the visit helps to break Assad’s diplomatic isolation, on the other it allows to Beijing to consolidate its commitment and presence in the Middle East.
China’s involvement in the Middle East
In fact, this year Beijing brokered the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a supporter of Syria, ending a phase of long diplomatic conflict. On the other hand, the thaw allowed Assad to bring his country back to the Arab world at the summit held in Saudi Arabia in May, putting an end to more than a decade of regional isolation. In 2019, Chinese diplomatic chief Wang Yi told then-Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem that Beijing strongly supported “the country’s economic reconstruction” and its efforts to “fight terrorism.”