Ever since the return of the Syrian war in 2015, which has seen both US alliance forces and as - of last - September, Russian forces too, jousting for political influence in the region under the guise of fighting ISIS while in reality either seeking to oust or preserve the Assad regime, one major player was missing: China.
That is about to change as the last major superpower enters the world's most volatile - and dangerous - region.
Beijing and Damascus have agreed that the Chinese military will have closer ties with Syria, and provide humanitarian aid to the civil war torn nation, a high-ranking People's Liberation Army officer said, adding that the training of Syrian personnel by Chinese instructors has also been discussed, according to Xinhua.
As has been historically the case, China tends to leave Middle Eastern diplomacy to the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, namely the United States, Britain, France and Russia, while relying on the region for oil supplies. But lately, for unknown reasons, China has been trying to get more involved, including sending envoys to help push for a diplomatic resolution to the violence there and hosting Syrian government and opposition figures according to Reuters.
The Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China's Central Military Commission, Guan Youfei, arrived in Damascus on Tuesday for talks with Syrian Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij, Xinhua added.
Guan said China had consistently played a positive role in pushing for a political resolution in Syria.
"China and Syria's militaries have a traditionally friendly relationship, and China's military is willing to keep strengthening exchanges and cooperation with Syria's military," the news agency paraphrased Guan as saying.
Rear Admiral Guan Youfei
Guan and al-Freij discussed the enhancement of training and "reached a consensus" on the Chinese military providing humanitarian aid to Syria, Xinhua reported, without providing further details.
As to who China will side with, it should come as little surprise that the answer is "not the US."
Last year, there were media reports that China had sent dozens of military advisers to Syria to help the country fight terrorists, however these were never confirmed.
This time, however, we have confirmation. Guan met a Russian general in Damascus, Xinhua reported without giving details.
While China has shown no interest in getting involved militarily in Syria, China's special envoy for the crisis there in April praised Russia's military role in the war as the Kremlin staged a bombing campaign there in September 2015 to March 2016. Russia still has some of its forces in the country to provide humanitarian and military assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
Which means that as of this moment, every major world superpower is officially involved in the Syrian war, which has on various occasions been aptly called a powderkeg for what may be the next global military conflict - to be sure, all required players are now officially involved.