During his visit to the People's Republic of China, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with President Xi Jinping in the country's port city of Hangzhou. In his first visit to China since 2004, Assad is said to be seeking support against the sanctions against his country.
During Assad's visit with high hopes, Jinping offered to help the country, whose infrastructure and economy had collapsed due to the civil war.
"In the face of an unstable and uncertain international environment, China is ready to continue to work with Syria for friendly cooperation and the upholding of international justice and equity," Jinping said in a statement after the meeting.
According to Chinese state media, Jinping said that China "supports Syria's opposition to foreign interference and unilateral tyranny" and expressed that China would support Syria's reconstruction. Jinping also reportedly suggested that the level of relations be raised to the level of "strategic partnership" in order to help eliminate the destruction in Syria.
In Chinese diplomacy, Jinping's proposed "strategic partnership" means close cooperation in regional and international affairs, including military matters. The underlying reason behind Beijing's desire for a "strategic partnership" with Damascus is interpreted as the desire to increase its influence in the Middle East region. China has significantly increased its influence in the region in recent years. In March, Beijing mediated between Saudi Arabia and Iran, helping to end a seven-year diplomatic dispute between the two countries.
Jinping backed Syria to improve ties with other Arab countries, citing flagship initiatives aimed at building infrastructure along the historic Silk Road and promoting China's approach to global security. However, analysts doubt that Chinese firms have much appetite to invest in Syria, given its poor security and dire financial situation, Reuters reported.
Any Chinese or other investment in Syria also risks exposing the investor to US sanctions under the Caesar Act in 2020, which could freeze the assets of anyone doing business with that state.