Amid growing economic pressure from the United States and a rapidly expanding U.S. and European military presence in the Asia-Pacific aimed primarily at China, which has included a number of Western powers pledging to deploy naval assets to areas of the South China Sea claimed by Beijing, the East Asian power has responded with strong indications that it may be willing to deploy its forces to the Syrian conflict on the side of the Syrian government - a longtime adversary of the Western Bloc. Direct Chinese military support for Damascus as war in the country enters its closing stages, and Western backed militant groups find themselves increasingly hard pressed, could well be an effective means for Beijing to open a second front against the Western Bloc - and the threat of such action could well be seen as a critical warning regarding the country’s ability to respond to U.S. and European pressure by undermining their interests in other parts of the world. With Western powers including France, Britain and the Untied States having themselves deployed ground assets to Syria in support of allied militant groups, and on many occasions carrying out direct attacks on Syrian forces, prospects for Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) forces to be deployed for a direct combat role represent very real and direct pressure on the Western Bloc. While reports have emerged that a small contingent of Chinese special forces have been deployed to the Syrian theatre as of late 2017, possibly in a non combat advisory role, these reports remain unconfirmed. On August 3rd 2017 however Chinese Ambassador to Syria Qi Qianjin noted that Beijing may well be set to deploy military assets to aid the Syrian armed forces in counterterrorism operations - as well as in their upcoming offensive against Idlib provide, the last major stronghold of the Western backed militant groups which once threatened to capture Damascus and form a new government in the country.
Speaking to Syrian state media, ambassador Qi stated that the PLA: “is willing to participate in some way alongside the Syrian Army that is fighting the terrorists in Idlib and in any other part of Syria.” Chinese military attachÃ© Wong Roy Chang further noted ongoing military cooperation and the PLA’s willingness to advance this relationship - which active participation in the war’s final stages could well be a key means of facilitating. Such an intervention would not only provide the PLA with valuable combat experience, something sorely lacking today due to the country’s strictly non interventionist policy, but will also potentially help to eliminate the danger posed by Islamist militants of Chinese origin who have reportedly joined the jihad in Syria in large numbers - often receiving arms and support from Arab and Western state sponsors. The Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its part stated it openly welcomed any support in counterterrorism operations from its East Asian partner.
The Potential for Chinese forces to deploy to Syria could well represent a considerable degree of unity and coordination between the West’s leading adversaries, with North Korea, Russia and Iran being named by the United States as its three other major ”˜great power adversaries’ alongside Beijing and all of these countries having committed considerable assets to the field in support of Damascus. Syria for its part, a longstanding partner of both Russian and North Korea with close defence and economic relationships going back many decades, was labelled as a target for U.S. regime change since 2002 in the ’Beyond the Axis of Evil’ grouping - and alongside North Korea and Iran is labelled as a state sponsor of terror by the United States for decades subject to economic sanctions. The prospect of all of the Western Bloc’s Great Power Adversaries committing forces to a single strategically critical theatre is unprecedented since the Korean War - and such coordination has several implications for the balance of power globally. The threat of China initiating such action therefore may well be sufficient to prompt the Western Bloc to somewhat alleviate its pressure campaign in the South China Sea and on the Chinese economy - due to the potential severity of the consequences should the Beijing move to commit assets in the Middle East alongside Pyongyang, Moscow and Tehran.