There are several reasons behind China's current stance. For one, Beijing is adhering to its long-standing foreign policy principles of sovereignty and non-intervention. A recent People's Daily opinion piecereaffirmed that "External forces should not intervene in the regime change of a state...." By adhering to its policy of non-intervention, China has often found itself at odds with the West, supporting repressive regimes such as North Korea, Sudan, and Iran.
Moreover, China's foreign policy principles appear to have gained increasing resonance in the wake of the NATO and Arab League intervention in Libya. Chinese international relations specialist Shi Yinhong, for example, has stated, "China's worry about the resurgent Western 'liberal interventionism' is playing a substantial part" in determining Beijing's stance on UN actions in Syria; part of China's insistence on non-intervention is likely due to its fear of possible international intervention to support separatist movements in Xinjiang and Tibet. Some analysts even suggest that China's support of Assad is rooted in fears that Iran would be in danger of Western intervention should Syria's regime fall.
Finally, even when China acquiesces to Western precepts, as it did in Libya by abstaining from UNSC Resolution 1973, some Chinese experts contend that Beijing's actions did not improve its image and led to sizeable Chinese economic losses. Thus, Beijing would gain little if it were to abandon its principled stand in Syria.
China has argued it is following a different path than the West--pursuing the same goal of peace and stability but without the need for military intervention. The Chinese leadership has publicized its attempts to engage both the Syrian government and the opposition, and it has been supportive of Kofi Annan's six-point peace plan. Chinese analysts have praised Beijing's active diplomatic role in the Syria conflict, maintaining that their mediation efforts will help solve the situation if given enough time. As Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang has indicated, "To promote the political solution to the Syria issues, China has always actively balanced its work between the Syrian government and the opposition." Western news outlets, though, have been quick to dismiss these efforts, stating that they are intended "to defuse criticism of [China's] policy on Syria's violence...."
Thus far, China's diplomatic entreaties have proven fruitless, and Beijing is likely to face an increasingly untenable geopolitical position. Its relations with Arab nations, most of whom support the anti-Assad rebels, may well suffer. Though these countries have not denounced China directly, they are clearly of a different mind on the issue; Syria's government has already been suspended from both the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.