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Comparative Foreign Policy Essay

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Updated: Jan 26th, 2020


The armed conflict in Syria is the largest humanitarian crisis facing the world at the moment. Thousands of innocent Syrians have been killed, and there are still no clear plans from the international community on how to end this crisis (Russell, 2012).

However, the disagreement between major powers should be blamed on this failure. For instance, China and the US have differed on almost every proposal aimed at bringing an end to the atrocities in Syria. The foreign policies of the two countries are very different.

China strictly adheres to the principle of non-intervention while the US believes that foreign intervention is necessary when a country is faced with a major humanitarian crisis. For that reason, unless one of the two countries changes its stand on Syria, a quick solution to the crisis will not be found.

This essay compares the United States’ and China’s foreign policies on Syria.

An Overview of the Crisis in Syria

Syria is currently in the midst of armed conflict. This conflict is primarily between rebel fighters opposed to President Bashar al Asad rule and forces loyal to him. According to Sharp and Blanchard (2012), various sources claim that around 25,000 Syrians have been killed since the crisis started.

Most members of the internal community believe that the Syrian president will be forced out of power. However, no specific plans or credible timetables on how this will be done are on offer. Syria’s crisis is, therefore, typified by uncertainty and misunderstandings (Russell, 2012).

While the international community is debating on the best ways of intervening in Syria, the conflict is growing. This is a serious threat to the region’s stability. There is a high probability that this conflict may spill over to neighboring countries.

In addition, the unrest may create new breeding grounds for Al-Qaeda and other extremist organization. The situation in Syria has a close resemblance to what happened in the Kashmir region. Kashmir harbored key terrorist groups as the unrests provided excellent training sites for them (Hilali, 2004).

Consequently, this conflict diverted attention from the war against terror.

Major Differences Between the US’ and China’s Foreign Policies

The United Nations (UN) General Assembly resolution 2131 (XX) declared that all countries should conduct their affairs independently (McWhinney, n.d.). Additionally, the principle of non-intervention prohibits any state from meddling in the internal affairs of another independent state (Adjei, 2005)

Although the UN Charter prohibits the use of force or any military intervention in the internal affairs of a country, it permits the use of substantial force in extreme situations (Kinacioglu, n.d.).

For that reason, the principles of the right to protect (R2P) and unilateral humanitarian intervention are preferred over the principle of non-intervention in most interventions. According to Peters (2009), sovereignty is derived from people and, therefore, their rights, interest, and security should be prioritized.

State sovereignty, therefore, has a legal value only when it respects human rights (Halt, 2012). The United States has used such provisions to involve itself in other countries’ affairs. On the other hand, China has adhered to the principle of non-intervention and its interpretation.

For that reason, China’s and United States’ foreign policies are very different. This explains why there are so many disagreements between these countries on the international front.

However, these disagreements are not healthy since they slow down the process of resolving major humanitarian crises facing the world. For instance, the international community is yet to come up with a plan to end the ongoing civil war in Syria.

US Policy on Syria

Since the 1980s, US policy towards Syria has revolved around confrontation, cautious engagement, and containment (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012). Therefore, successive US governments have sought to convince Syria to end its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon and extremists within Palestine.

In addition, these governments have encouraged peace talks between Syria and Israel. However, the Obama administration is pursuing other policies. Some of these policies include demand for a political transition, international diplomacy, sanctions, humanitarian aid, and non-lethal aid.

Other policy measures toward Syria include intelligent coordination, disruption of arms shipment to the country and contingency planning. The US, through the leadership of President Obama, has been calling for Asad’s resignation since last year (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012).

Moreover, the Obama administration has also pressured the United Nations Security to condemn the ongoing atrocities in Syria. In addition, US policymakers, in collaboration with the international community, are working on an improved international policy on Syria (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012).

However, the US is yet to provide any clue on whether it will use its military in Syria (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012). Therefore, the debate on the United States’ mode of intervention in Syria continues.

Some Congressmen and non-governmental observers feel that the atrocities committed on Syrians people warrants a military intervention (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012). They believe that the US should now pursue its goal of regime change.

However, other stakeholders maintain that regime change in Syria will have negative implications on the region’s security (Glaser, 2012). These stakeholders believe that Syrian opposition is infiltrated with extremist elements.

The US is, thus, only enforcing the United Nations-backed sanctions on Syria and supporters of the Asad’s government at the moment.

However, there are other interventions that are not too public. The US has provided Syria with humanitarian assistance since the onset of this crisis. For instance, in August 2012, the US released $82 million to address Syria’s humanitarian needs and those of its neighbors (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012).

In addition, the US has been providing non-lethal aid to the Syrian opposition. Some of these non-lethal aids include medicines and communication equipment (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012). Sharp and Blanchard (2012) also add that the US is also arming opposition fighters who are not connected to terrorist groups.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is obligated to vet opposition groups in Syria (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012). Furthermore, the US and its allies, within the region, are also trying to prevent Assad’s forces from receiving additional arms.

For instance, the US administration pressured Iraq to close its air space to cargo flights carrying weapons to Syria (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012).

Some sources claim that the Obama administration is considering a military intervention in Syria (Sanger and Schmitt, 2012). The administration feels that this crisis has reached a point where it requires to be checked. Moreover, the administration is wary of the continued presence of China and Russia in the crisis.

The US military is also secretly developing a contingency plan in readiness for possible interventions in Syria (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012). Additionally, although the conflict is continuing, some sources state that the US is preparing for a regime change in Syria.

In this regard, the US is trying to bring the opposition groups together. However, Russell (2012) calls any interventions in Syria hypocritical. He claims that the US is not ready to create a version of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria.

China’s Policy on Syria

Since its enactment, China has at all times obeyed the principle of non-intervention. The leadership of China believes that no countries should interfere with the internal affairs of sovereign states (Swaine, 2012). Beijing only sends envoys to countries facing major humanitarian crises to call for restraint, but never intervenes in any other way.

Therefore, China is opposed to the use of force in restoring sanity in major humanitarian crises (Swaine, 2012). Swaine (2012) also reiterates that China has always been against sanctions and other coercive ways of pressuring an independent state into behaving in a certain way.

China also believes that foreign interventions led by the United States and the West are motivated by a desire to change a regime (Swaine, 2012). China goes on to maintain that beneficiaries of these changes are used by the US and the West against it.

Therefore, Beijing is unlikely to join the international community in major interventions. For that reason, China’s stand on the Syrian crisis is based on principles and values. These values have characterized China throughout its modern history.

This explains why China has stuck with Assad’s regime throughout this conflict. China has resisted western pressure and maintained that Assad should not be dethroned forcefully. However, China has continuously called for a cease in Syria.

However, China is realizing that problems facing failed states or unstable government are serious threats to its security and economy. For that reason, China has shown signs of supporting some interventions (Swaine, 2012). For instance, China failed to use its veto powers to block UN-backed interventions in Libya.

This military intervention was endorsed by the UN Security Country. Surprisingly, instead of opposing this intervention, China opted not to vote on the issue. In addition, China surprised many countries by offering a peace deal to Syria (Hetou, 2012).

However, this deal does not point fingers at any of the sides fighting. China claims that it is not its business to determine which side is to blame for the violence. China has also been able to mobilize support for its peace plan in Syria.

According to Hetou (2012), Russia backs this deal. Therefore, the Syrian crisis is a major test for China’s foreign policy. Nonetheless, in order to act as the main power broker in Syria, China has to forego some of its major stands in foreign relations.

Nonetheless, China has shown consistency in its quest to find peace in Syria. Therefore, China is set to make a major breakthrough as a world leader if it succeeds in bringing peace to Syria.


The Syrian crisis is a major test for word’s peace and unity. Interestingly, the US has shown restraint throughout the Crisis. On the other hand, China seems to forego its value and principles in a bid to find peace in Syria. China continued presence in this issue has, however, awakened the US.

It is now believed that the US is contemplating military intervention in Syria. Moreover, sources claim that the US is ready for a regime change in Syria (Sharp and Blanchard, 2012). For that reason, we should be ready for a situation where world major powers will be exercising their rivalry in a major humanitarian crisis.


Adjei, E. (2005). . Web.

Glaser, J. (2012). : Russia slammed the US for ‘justifying terrorism’ in Syria. Web.

Halt B. (2012). . Web.

Hetou, G. (2012). . Web.

Hilali, A. Z. (2004). . Web.

Kinacioglu, M. : the charter framework and the legal debate. Web.

McWhinney, E. Declaration on the inadmissibility of intervention in the domestic affairs of states and the protection of their independence and sovereignty general assembly resolution 2131 (xx) New York, 21 December 1965. Web.

Peters, A. (2009). Humanity as the A and Ω of sovereignty”. The European Journal of International Law, 20(3), 513–544.

Russell, J. S. (2012). Exploring the ‘space between’ that is diplomacy: Syria and US foreign policy. Web.

Sanger, D. E & Schmitt, E. (2012). . The New York Times. Web.

Sharp, J. M. & Blanchard, C. M. (2012, August 21). : US. and international response (Congressional Report No. RL33487). Web.

Swaine, M. D. (2012). . Web.

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