Chinese state media on Saturday accused the US and Europe of "harbouring hegemonistic ambitions" in Syria, after Western and Arab nations ratcheted up pressure on Bashar al-Assad at a meeting in Tunisia.
In a commentary Beijing's official Xinhua news agency said that "most of the Arab countries have begun to realise that the United States and Europe are hiding a dagger behind a smile".
"In other words, while they appear to be acting out of humanitarian concern, they are actually harbouring hegemonistic ambitions," it said.
Xinhua claimed that the Friends of Syria conference -- which was boycotted by both China and Russia -- "concluded with a consensus on avoiding a militarisation of the conflict in Syria".
But the meeting of more than 60 foreign ministers saw calls for Arab peacekeepers to intervene and for the opposition to be armed, as well as a US warning that Assad would pay a heavy price for defying international will.
Xinhua said that China "did not attend the conference as it wants more clarity on the aim, effect and mechanism" of the meeting.
It said Arab countries wanted "to make sure a tragedy similar to Libya's would not unfold in Syria".
"As a friend of the Syrian and Arab peoples, China believes any action taken by the international community should help to cease tensions, boost political dialogues, resolve differences and maintain peace and stability in the Middle East," it added.
The absence of Beijing and Moscow's representatives from Friday's meeting highlighted the difficulty in building an international consensus on Syria.
Both countries have frustrated efforts to rein in Assad's regime, including by vetoing UN Security Council resolutions.
Xinhua did not comment on remarks by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton after the meeting in which she said: "We need to change the attitude of the Russians and Chinese.
"They must understand they are setting themselves against the aspirations not only of the Syrian people but of the entire Arab Spring," she told reporters.