China's top state newspaper warned on Monday that any Western-backed military intervention in Syria would unleash even bloodier chaos, and said abandoning envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan could push Syria into the "abyss" of full-scale war.
The People's Daily, the main newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, spelled out the reasons for Beijing's opposition to a tougher response to the massacre last month of 108 people in Houla, which Western and Arab governments blamed on forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
The paper also warned that "external forces are not qualified to meddle".
"It is easy to imagine the turmoil that would occur should Syria erupt into all-out civil war, triggering Western military intervention," said a commentary in the paper, which generally reflects Chinese government thinking.
The Houla massacre prompted Annan to warn of the growing risk of civil war in Syria, where rebels have urged the international envoy to declare his peace plan dead.
But China's People's Daily said Annan's April 12 ceasefire deal remained the only practical basis for seeking peace in Syria, where government forces have been fighting opposition groups despite the nominal ceasefire.
"If this realistic path to a peaceful resolution of the Syrian issue is blocked, it is entirely likely the country will be pushed into the abyss of outright war," it said.
"At present, the realistic plan for resolving the Syrian issue remains Annan's six points and his peace plan."
The state paper amplified earlier comments from China's Foreign Ministry, which has repeated Beijing's opposition to forceful intervention in Syria.
China traditionally joins with Russia in opposing Western calls for intervention in domestic crises abroad. In 2011, both countries accused NATO forces of illegitimately turning a United Nations-authorized operation to protect civilians in war-stricken Libya into a broader campaign to oust Muammar Gaddafi.
On Friday, Russia, China and Cuba voted against a resolution passed by the 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva condemning Syria for the massacre in the Houla area and calling for a U.N. investigation to gather evidence for possible criminal prosecution.
Beijing also faces pressure from some Arab countries that have demanded a stronger response to the bloodshed in Syria. China's foreign minister Yang Jiechi told them on Thursday his country was keeping faith with Annan's peace plan.