Wednesday May 27, 2020


February 10, 2012

On February 4, Russia and China issued a joint veto of a UN Security Council Resolution on Syria. The resolution backed an Arab League plan which called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, recall his troops, and begin dialogues that would lead towards democracy. The veto of the resolution, which had the support of the thirteen other members of the Security Council, sparked strong reactions from countries all over the world.

The resolution was in response to a growing crisis in Syria, where an uprising began in March 2011, followed by a cycle of protests and government crackdowns. The UN estimates that over 5,000 people have died in the resulting violence, including an estimated 200 that were killed in an artillery bombardment of Homs the day before the UN Security Council’s resolution was vetoed.

China and Russia’s joint veto has come under fire from many other nations, including the US. The American, British, and French ambassadors to the UN all strongly condemned the veto. UN President Ban Ki-Moon stated that “The Security Council has lost an opportunity to take unified action that could help end this crisis and forge a peaceful future, with democracy and dignity, for all of the Syrian people.”

Arab nations also reacted strongly against the veto, with some believing that China and Russia issued a joint veto out of concerns that have little to do with Syria’s specific situation. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the veto as a result of “Cold War logic”: “Russia and China did not vote based on the existing realities but more [out of] a reflexive attitude against the West.”

Meanwhile, both China and Russia vigorously defended their actions, saying that passing the resolution would be tantamount to taking sides in a civil war. Russian representatives stated their position that an unequivocal call for regime change would only provoke further violence, discouraging the possibility of a peaceful settlement. Likewise, the Chinese government insisted its veto was an attempt to avoid the sort of foreign-supported regime change that has caused chaos in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. China denied implications that it is tacitly supporting the regime behind the “heart-rending” violence taking place in Syria, saying instead that attempts to replace one regime with another have often caused further “humanitarian disasters.” China maintains that, by issuing a veto, it was acting in the best interests of the Syrian people, arguing that the UN resolution would have only led to escalated violence.

China’s veto was unusual, being only the eighth time China has used a veto since rejoining the U.N. in 1971. Last year, China abstained from voting on the U.N. Resolution on Libya, rather than veto a measure with wide-spread support. China’s veto here marks a variance from China’s normally conservative and pragmatic foreign policy approach.

As the situation in Syria continues to worsen, the Arab League has stated it will continue to pursue its plan, with or without UN support. Meanwhile, nations who supported the UN resolution, including the US, are investigating the use of sanctions to cut off funding for Assad’s regime. China, unwilling to support any attempt to oust the Assad regime, supports a neutral approach where both sides of the conflict are encouraged to negotiate.


For further information on China and Russia’s veto of the UN Resolution, please see the following news sources and commentary:

People’s Daily OnlineChina Halts ‘One-Sided’ Draft

The GuardianChina Defends Syria Veto in People’s Daily Article

The New York TimesWhy Beijing Votes with Moscow

Huffington PostRussia, China Veto of Syria UN Resolution Sparks Outrage

For Chinese commentary on the UN Resolution and the Chinese-Russian joint veto, please see the following news sources:

People’s Daily人民网怎样做才是真正对叙利亚人民负责

Xinhua 新华外交部:中方同叙利亚问题有关各方均保持联系沟通

For further information on the situation in Syria, please see the following news sources:

The New York TimesSyria—Protests (2011-)

The TelegraphSyria News


Compiled by Shannon Reed.