The Syrian president arrived in China for an official trip. Bashar al-Assad intends to attract Chinese investments to his country and raise the question of infrastructure reconstruction.
This is a first in 20 years. The Syrian president arrived in Hangzhou on September 21 for a several-day official visit. In addition to his partner Asma, Bashar al-Assad is accompanied by a large delegation of Syrian businessmen and business leaders.
The Syrian head of state is also due to attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games on September 23 in the city of Hangzhou. On this occasion, Bashar al-Assad will meet other foreign leaders, such as those of Nepal, Cambodia and Kuwait.
US sanctions slow down Syria’s reconstruction
“We believe that President Bashar al-Assad’s visit will strengthen mutual political trust and cooperation in various sectors between the two countries, taking bilateral relations to a new level,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said . Foreign Affairs Mao Ning during a press briefing, before adding that the two countries maintained “a deep relationship of friendship”.
Even if China is Damascus’ first partner since 2017, the Lebanese daily The Orient-The Day reports that Chinese exports to Syria only reached $424.51 million in 2022. Bashar al-Assad’s trip is thus an opportunity for the Syrian president to discuss the reconstruction of his country with an allied partner .
Indeed, in the recent past, China has repeatedly criticized American sanctions which complicate the reconstruction of the country’s infrastructure. Since 2016, Beijing has reportedly sought to create investment opportunities in Syria. Already at that time, the Chinese government’s special envoy for the Syrian issue, Xie Xiaoyan, declared that his country was “confident that it would be part of the post-war reconstruction process in Syria.” according to Syrian media Enab Baladi.
Syria in the Silk Roads project
Same story on Xi Jinping’s side. The Chinese president reaffirmed in 2019 that Beijing was “ready to participate in the reconstruction of Syria”. Several projects were under study. In 2015, the Chinese company Huawei expressed interest in rebuilding the Syrian telecommunications system. In 2017, China pledged $2 billion to help develop infrastructure and industrial parks.
Chinese investors are also interested in the construction of a North/South-East highway, the redevelopment of the ports of Latakia and Tartous and the construction of two railway lines, one in the Damascus region and the other which would connect the Syrian coast to the Syrian coast. Lebanese port of Tripoli, according to The telegraph.
The understanding between Damascus and Beijing would not be devoid of ulterior motives in the long term. “We have proposed about six projects to the Chinese government in accordance with the Belt and Road methodology. (name given by the Chinese to their new Silk Roads project) and we are waiting to know which projects correspond to their thinking,” declared Bashar al-Assad in 2019. China could thus include Damascus in its new Silk Roads project. Silk, the Middle East being at the crossroads of the Asian and European markets. Syria would thus become a transit country for the transport of products from China.
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