Bashar al-Assad will visit China on Thursday, marking the Syrian president's first trip to the People's Republic since 2004 as Beijing's influence in the Middle East grows.
Assad and Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad are traveling to China on the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Assad and Xi will hold a Syrian-Chinese summit, and Assad will hold additional meetings in the capital Beijing as well as Hangzhou in the east. Assad’s delegation will include Foreign Minister Fayssal Mikdad and Economy and Foreign Trade Minister Mohammad Samer al-Khalil, Syria’s official news outlet SANA reported on Tuesday.
Why it matters: The visit marks a major milestone in Syria-China relations, being Assad’s first to China since 2004. That trip was the first by a Syrian head of state since Syria established relations with the People’s Republic in 1956, according to Reuters.
Syria’s relations with China have been improving for some time, including with regard to the Syrian civil war. In 2020, China and Russia started using their veto power at the United Nations Security Council to close three of the four cross-border aid routes from Turkey, Iraq and Jordan into parts of Syria outside of government control, arguing that aid should be delivered through Damascus. The resolution allowing aid to be delivered via the sole remaining crossing at Bab al-Hawa on the Turkish border expired in July, but the Syrian government said at the time that aid could continue for six months.