China’s veto power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council means that it is a key actor when it comes to considering external powers’ responses to the Arab Awakening. Add to this significant and growing economic interests – most notably, but not only, as an oil importer – and China’s desire to play a role in the region becomes clearer. China’s initial response was driven
by concerns about a potential spillover into unrest in China. But as this immediate challenge dissipated, the region became an arena where Chinese principles of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states not only came into conflict with the priorities of some Western powers, but were also mediated by more pragmatic material considerations from China itself.