Doha, Qatar – In a high-profile meeting between China’s special envoy for Middle East affairs, Zhai Jun, and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Bogdanov, in Qatar, both countries reiterated their commitment to work together in efforts to de-escalate the Israel-Gaza crisis. The visit to Qatar marked the first leg of Zhai Jun’s tour of the region, showcasing China’s growing involvement in the Middle East.
China and Russia Stand United
During their meeting in Doha, Zhai Jun affirmed China’s alignment with Moscow in addressing the Israel-Gaza crisis. The two nations share a common stance on the Palestinian issue, emphasizing the importance of guaranteeing the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people.
Zhai Jun was quoted as saying, “The fundamental reason for the current situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is that the legitimate national rights of the Palestinian people have not been guaranteed.” Notably, he did not specifically mention the Gaza-based militant group, Hamas, which has played a pivotal role in the ongoing crisis.
Gaza Crisis Background
The Israel-Gaza crisis has been ongoing for years, marked by periodic flare-ups in violence. On October 7, Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, resulting in the tragic deaths of at least 1,400 people. In response, Israel launched air strikes, effectively putting the 2.3 million residents of the Gaza Strip under siege.
China’s Stance and U.S. Divergence
China’s position on the conflict aligns more closely with Russia than with the United States. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, while condemning acts that harm civilians without explicitly naming Hamas, expressed that “Israel’s actions have gone beyond the scope of self-defense.”
In contrast, Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to China, acknowledged differences in views between the United States and China regarding the Israel-Hamas war. He stated, “We do not have identical views on this particular position,” hinting at the ongoing tension in Sino-U.S. relations.
The Role of the United States
The crisis has put China and Russia on one side, while the United States has taken a different stance. President Joe Biden announced plans to seek additional funding, estimated to be in the billions, to support Israel in its conflict with Hamas.
Russia, with its broad regional ties, has consistently emphasized the need for an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. Russia’s diplomatic efforts, including a proposed humanitarian ceasefire resolution at the United Nations Security Council, have been met with resistance, with the U.S. vetoing a Brazil-drafted resolution, and a Russian-drafted resolution also failing to pass.
China’s Perspective on U.S. Biases
Chinese perspectives on the issue have been unambiguous. The state-affiliated Global Times published an editorial, asserting that “The biased attitude of the U.S. is one of the root causes of the long-standing Palestine issue, and it acts as a catalyst for escalating the conflict when it erupts.” This statement highlights China’s belief that the U.S. approach contributes to the perpetuation of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Diplomatic Efforts in Qatar
In Qatar, Zhai Jun underlined China’s readiness to maintain communication and coordination with Russia in an effort to bring about a calming of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Qatar, a tiny Gulf state, has played a significant role as a diplomatic intermediary, with various foreign diplomats, including U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken, seeking to mediate in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Qatar’s direct communication channels with Hamas, which has maintained a political office in Doha for over a decade, make it a crucial hub for peace initiatives in the region.
China’s Involvement in the Middle East
China’s increasing engagement in Middle East affairs, as showcased by Zhai Jun’s visit and his alignment with Russia, signals the nation’s growing role as a key player in regional diplomacy. While the Israel-Gaza crisis remains a deeply complex and entrenched conflict, China’s active involvement alongside Russia suggests a shift in the dynamics of the Middle East, with potentially significant implications for future peace negotiations.