FROM EIR DAILY ALERT
China’s Leading Role in Syrian Postwar Reconstruction
Oct. 15, 2018 (EIRNS)—A lengthy article which appeared yesterday in the South China Morning Post looks at who will participate in the postwar reconstruction of Syria, which the World Bank estimates will cost nearly $400 billion. Whereas recent international trade fairs have demonstrated that non-Western international stakeholders are interested in playing their part, the U.S. and EU have largely been excluded, due to their own obstruction, from such discussions. There is strong interest from Russia, Lebanon, and Iran, but the main input for Syria’s reconstruction comes from China.
On Sept. 15, the 60th Damascus International Fair concluded, attended by more than 200 Chinese companies. The Damascus fair was the first successful resumption of a previous venue that facilitated foreign direct investment and joint venture deals for overseas companies wanting to do business in Syria. But persistent U.S. sanctions against Syrian and Syrian-allied institutions prevented U.S. and EU companies from being invited to this year’s fair. With little competition present, China pledged to manufacture its own cars within Syria, and provide mobile hospitals, and it reaffirmed its ambition to develop Syria’s postwar infrastructure.
The U.S. and EU countries were, however, allowed to attend the 4th International Trade Exhibition for Rebuilding Syria, which concluded on Oct. 6. Although they were allowed to attend, Western participants were not exactly welcome. One manager at a major Syrian tile manufacturing company was quoted as saying, “I don’t hope that the West will come here, because it had a big hand in the war against Syria.” At the same time, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who is leaving her post at year end, has intimated that the U.S. is not even interested in helping “rebuild Syria,” calling the notion “absurd.”
But at July’s China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, promises of $20 billion in loans for infrastructure development were accompanied by a nearly $100 million package dedicated to humanitarian assistance for Syria, and for Yemen, where a Saudi-backed war has created unimaginable humanitarian disaster. Chinese reconstruction promises lead to greater cooperation with a stable postwar Syria. With support from Syrian President Bashar al Assad, China could link Damascus into the China-Central Asia-West Asia economic corridor as part of its Belt and Road Initiative and strike a deal for the development of, and access to, Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus.
These ambitions do not seem far from reality. On Oct. 9, a container ship capable of holding 10,000 containers docked at Tripoli, Lebanon, inaugurating a Chinese-developed shipping line between Beijing and a port less than 30 km from the Syria-Lebanon border.