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Will Russia and China become competitors in post-war Syria?

Even the father of the current Syrian leader Hafez Asad established friendship with Mao Zedong

The head of Chinese diplomacy, Wang Yi, promised that the Celestial Empire would help Syria to be reborn after the war. There is oil in the Arab Republic, which means that over time, money will be brought in again, so Beijing has long been studying what it will be able to earn in Syria after the war. Isn’t it time for Moscow to start already to fear that, having won the war, it will lose Syria later economically?

China will support the socio-economic development of Syria, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, meeting on Thursday with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem. The meeting was held in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session. Beijing attaches great importance to Chinese-Syrian relations and “will not shy away” from restoring Syria, quotes Wang Xinhua.

Actually, China does not “shy away” – even at the height of the Syrian war, he did not forget about his strategic interests in a Middle Eastern state. In Damascus, they remember this no less than they do about the military assistance of Moscow and Tehran. “Of course, we expect that the (recovery) process will be based on the three main states that supported Syria during this crisis. These are Russia, China and Iran, ”President Bashar Assad promised Russian media in March 2016.

Before the war, China was the main exporter of goods to Syria (more than $ 2.2 billion in a prosperous 2009). Celestial actively invested in one of the main exports of Syria – oil. Remind that in the prewar 2010 state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation, along with Royal Dutch Shell, became co-owner of Al-Furat Petroleum, the main Syrian oil refining company. Syria was considered as one of the “nodes” of the “New Silk Road” project – one of the routes of the Eurasian transport system is supposed to be laid through Iran and Iraq to Syria with its Mediterranean ports – by the way, bypassing Turkey.

Military-political cooperation between the “Asad family regime” and Beijing can be traced back to the days of Mao Zedong. The father of the current president, Hafez Asad, knew how to get along with the USSR and the People’s Republic of China at the same time hostile.

Back in 1969, Mustafa Tlas, head of the Syrian army, the right hand of Assad Sr. (then not the president, but the minister of defense), was sent on a mission to Beijing to arrange the supply of Chinese weapons and even had a photo with Mao’s quotation book. Tlas was Syrian defense minister until 2002, and they say that it was Bashar Asad who was obliged to him to obtain his father’s “throne” without hindrance. Not without the participation of this man, China helped Damascus in the development of the Syrian missile program.

It is hardly surprising to see the visits of the Chinese Navy ships to the Syrian coast in 2013 (the war is in full swing, before the start of the operation of the Russian Aerospace Forces for another two years). China obviously “denotes presence”, while doing so is traditionally cautious.

“China has repeatedly been invited to participate in the peacekeeping operation in Syria. And China, at the end of 2016, in 2017, said that he was considering this opportunity, – Sinologist Alexey Maslov told the newspapers. – But the Chinese did not participate in military operations. China looked at how the clash between Damascus and the Syrian opposition would end on the one hand and with the United States and Russia on the other. And now China has begun to declare that it is ready to provide humanitarian assistance. This is generally standard Chinese tactics. ”

The more obvious were the successes of the Syrian army with the support of our HQs, the louder from Beijing were the promises of participation in the post-war reconstruction. In 2016, when Palmyra and Aleppo were released, the PRC established the post of special representative for Syria. In 2017, the government of the PRC announced a plan: to invest about $ 2 billion in the construction of an industrial park in Syria with the involvement of 150 Chinese companies. Exactly a year ago, Chinese companies along with Russian and Iranian companies participated in the International Exhibition in Damascus – the first since pre-war times. It was stated that Huawei could be involved in the reconstruction of Syrian telecommunications.

“First of all, China is interested in coming to Syria in such a way as to restore infrastructure. Who owns the infrastructure, railways, owns the country, – said Maslov. – Secondly, China is interested in participating in the development of oil fields in Syria. On this occasion, by the way, China entered the country before the civil war. And finally, the third is the training and retraining of the Syrian cadres. ”

The Chinese will definitely go to Syria. “Now the most important issue in Syria is not who will win, but who will participate in the restoration of the economy,” he said. – China, of course, wants this

It went according to the Chinese model. It can be assumed that Beijing will provide its economic and technological advisers. ”

At this point, China will to some extent compete with Russia in the restoration of Syria, said Maslov and adds:

“Russia, frankly, has suffered the greatest expenses and losses in Syria. Therefore, we can count on some piece of Syrian pie. ”

Note that appeals to invest in the restoration of post-war Syria are heard from Moscow. Recall that in August, Vladimir Putin, while visiting Berlin, convinced Angela Merkel – as the leader of one of the leading EU countries – that Europe should help Syria after a 7-year war.

It seems that the Europeans will not have to persuade for a long time. Earlier this week, the head of European diplomacy Federica Mogherini called the conditions. And this is no longer “the immediate withdrawal of the tyrant Asad”, but quite doable: keeping the situation in Idlib according to the memorandum signed by Russia and Turkey and the beginning of the work of the constitutional committee. France, which considers Syria to be its sphere of influence, is becoming more and more interested.

The restoration of Syria is beneficial to us from a geopolitical point of view, says Konstantin Simonov, director of the National Energy Security Foundation. “The benefit is quite serious, and we are trying to make the cause of restoring Syria a global affair. The restoration of Syria will also mean recognition by those countries that are restoring Syria, that the “Assad regime” remains at least until the new elections, he told the newspaper. “The participation of China in the restoration, thus, the question is not so much economic as political.”

Russia, which has made a decisive contribution to the turning point in the Syrian war, is clearly no reason to simply “pull chestnuts out of the fire” for the benefit of China or the EU. We in this country have not only military-strategic, but also economic interests – which, by the way, Putin recalled during the straight line when he talks to the citizens from different parts of Russia this year.

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