Syrian President Bashar al-Assad travelled to China on his first visit since 2004, accompanied by his wife and a large delegation.
The visit — portrayed by the Syrian media and its allies as a victory for al-Assad over the alleged global conspiracy against him — was primarily in response to an invitation from the Chinese president to attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games in Hangzhou on 23rd September.
While the visit has objectives beyond the games, it is not a transformative event that will likely change regional or global equations.
As world leaders and their representatives gathered for the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, al-Assad's media machinery sought to portray his visit to China as part of a series of efforts to alleviate the regime's international isolation.
It is important to note that al-Assad is the third internationally isolated head of state to visit China this year, following Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Chinese support for al-Assad's regime
Since the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011 and al-Assad's war against his own people advocating for democratic change, China has provided political and economic support to the regime. In concert with Russia, China has consistently used its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to shield the al-Assad administration.
While China has publicly expressed its opposition to Western intervention in Syria, it has not followed the same path as Russia and Iran, which have deployed combatants and mercenaries to help al-Assad's forces in their fight against the Syrian people.
The Syrian regime designated China, Russia, and Iran friendly governments several years ago. China has made several promises and signed economic agreements with the Syrian regime, but these projects have not materialised.
Today, as Russia is preoccupied with the conflict in Ukraine, some believe that China is increasingly interested in playing a political mediator role in resolving regional crises. This culminated in the Beijing Agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran.