With Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visiting China earlier this month to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first Arab President to visit China since the China-Arab States Summit of Riyadh in December 2022, commentators have suggested China may well be placing more importance on Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine as a foreign policy issue.
On May 24th, Chinese Ambassador Geng Shuang addressed the UN and strongly condemned Israel’s "illegal expansion of [Israeli Jewish] settlements”, its “unilateral action” and its “provocations” in Jerusalem, as well as raising the issue of “the plight of the Palestinian refugees”. This comes off the back of China’s successful brokering of a landmark deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran on 6th April, soon after which China's new Foreign Minister, Qin Gang, reportedly consulted with Palestinian and Israeli officials on "steps to resume peace talks".
Given the United States’ long-standing and overt support for Israel, something which has angered Palestinians who feel that this proves the US can never be an honest broker in any efforts to bring about a just and lasting resolution to the region, is China looking to take advantage of this situation and what could increased Chinese influence mean for the Palestinians?
We’ll be unpacking: how China’s Belt and Road Initiative incorporates Israel and Palestine; whether accusations of human rights abuses against the Chinese government, particularly its treatment of the Uyghur minority, will affect its relationship with Palestine; the nature of China’s vision for peace in Palestine and Israel; and what a broader shift in the global balance of power could mean for the region and for Palestinians in particular?
Ian Williams is President of the Foreign Press Association, New York & Columnist for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Mark Seddon was speechwriter for former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon & Al Jazeera Television’s first UN correspondent in New York.