Xinhua, the state news agency, on Saturday called the strike the act of a weakened politician who needed to flex his muscles. In an analysis, Xinhua also said Mr. Trump had ordered the strike to distance himself from Syria’s backers in Moscow, to overcome accusations that he was “pro-Russia.”
That unflattering assessment reflected China’s official opposition to military interventions in the affairs of other countries. But it was also a criticism of Mr. Trump himself, who Mr. Xi had hoped was a man China could deal with.
In truth, Trump’s assault on Syria was designed mostly to serve a domestic audience. The expensive show of force doesn’t thwart Bashar Assad’s ability to press the remaining factions in Idlib and Trump carefully avoided doing anything that would scratch the paint on Russian missile defense systems. He created a one day spectacle that didn’t require any strategy or fresh planning. To the extent that Trump got the news channels talking about Syria, not talking about Russia, and reminded people that he’s not just a fruit loop, he’s a fruit loop with a button, it all worked as designed.
Still, anyone thinking that the action would seriously affect the way in which China deals with North Korea should prepare to be disappointed.
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