Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN, said that the US was "disgusted" by Russia and China's decision to veto the UN resolution on Syria. Such language appears on China's freewheeling Weibo a lot, but now it comes from the mouth of a veteran diplomat. This might be "disgusting."
Since 1971, China has vetoed UN Security Council resolutions eight times. It is the country that has used its veto the fewest times among United Nations Security Council (UNSC) permanent members. France, the next up, has vetoed nearly 20 times. It reflects the cautiousness China shows in wielding its power. In past years, despite strong opposition against certain UNSC resolution, China has often abstained, allowing what it was against to happen. That era is gone.
China's veto is following its own logic. It does not hint at a possible China-Russia alliance. Both China and Russia have their own interests and dignity. If the West is not willing to see the two move closer, it should not force their hand.
The West's aggression is pressing China which tends to stay moderate. Chinese used to think Syria was a remote country. Besides, Chinese society is alert to the idea of a China-Russia bond against the West. Such a view is finding traction among academics.
The West had an opportunity to shape a moderate Russia when the Soviet Union disintegrated, but Washington disdained the opportunity. Russia's tough posture has partly resulted from Washington's suppression of this chance. Now the West is seemingly adopting the same approach toward China. Despite its development, China is feeling its strategic room being squeezed.
China's veto is first concerning the Middle East. Other than that, the West should also see in it a change in China's public sentiment. It is not nationalism, it is more a result of a feeling of crisis. Extreme voices against China appear more often among US politicians and media, further strengthening Chinese worries. Chinese society has no willingness to confront the West. Its people are uncomfortable at being targeted by Western media. But now they are forced to believe Western media are averse to China. It is useless to try and please them.
Abstaining is no longer always a choice as China is forced to speak out. China needs to speak out. Hiding its true thinking does not help avoid trouble. The veto may have its consequences, but the Chinese people are willing to face it together. In a recent Global Times poll, 91 percent of respondents supported China's decision.