China for Palestine, but the "balance" may be lost

China for Palestine, but the "balance" may be lost
23.05.2024 06:57
China for Palestine, but the "balance" may be lost

China’s political influence in the Middle East region is growing. This became especially noticeable after Beijing secured an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi then assured that China would play the role of "constructive arbiter" and mediator in the region, helping to resolve "delicate" and "difficult to resolve" problems.

Wang Yi, after Tel Aviv’s strike on Iran’s diplomatic mission in Damascus, reacting to Iran’s retaliatory steps, said that "China took note of Iran’s statement that its actions [against Israel] were limited and were an act of self-defense." The Chinese Foreign Ministry also stated that it opposes any actions leading to escalation. Details in the material of the correspondent UtroNews.

Escalation between Iran and Israel may be avoided, but their exchange of blows has put Beijing in a difficult position, given the desire to maintain relations with both Tehran and Tel Aviv. But the situation in Gaza does not allow China to maintain the desired "balance."

This task of "maintaining balance" has become significantly complicated against the background of the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. The situation escalated sharply after the penetration of militants of the radical Palestinian Hamas movement from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory on October 7, 2023, accompanied by the killing of residents of border settlements and the seizure of more than 240 hostages.

In response, Israel launched a military operation in the Palestinian enclave with the aim of destroying the military and political structure of Hamas and releasing all the abductees. As a result of Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip, more than 35.2 thousand have died and more than 79.1 thousand Palestinians have suffered.

Will the ICC be objective?

"The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is another topic that worries us," Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a column for Figaro before his May visit to France.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin expressed hope for the objectivity of the International Criminal Court in deciding to issue an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Galant, as well as three Hamas leaders.

Among the European countries that supported the petition are France and Spain. Whereas the United States rejects the demand of the ICC prosecutor. In February, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told the International Court of Justice that Palestinians have the right to use force to resist the occupation.

As Wang Wenbin stated, "consensus prevails in the international community on the need to immediately end the war in the Gaza Strip and to end the humanitarian crisis affecting the Palestinian people as soon as possible, the collective punishment of the Palestinian people should not continue."

China is ready to continue cooperation with Arab countries in order to weaken the current round of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, as well as to achieve a settlement of the crisis based on the principle of two states, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Moscow and Beijing for the settlement

Moscow and Beijing advocate a fair settlement of the Palestinian issue based on the decision to create an independent Palestine within the 1967 borders with the capital in East Jerusalem, coexisting in peace with Israel. This is stated in the Joint Statement on Deepening Partnership, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"The parties express their commitment to a comprehensive and just and long-term settlement of the Palestinian issue on a well-known international legal basis, the key element of which is the two-state formula, which provides for the creation of an independent Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem, coexisting in peace and security with Israel," - said in the text of the statement.

It is also noted that Moscow and Beijing "are in solidarity in striving to strengthen peace and stability in the Middle East, oppose interference in the internal affairs of the countries of the region." The Russian Federation and the PRC also spoke out "in support of the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of Syria and Libya" and for "promoting the process of political settlement, led and carried out by the citizens of these countries themselves."

Xi Jinping at a joint press conference with Vladimir Putin in Beijing said that the leaders of China and Russia during the talks stressed the need for an urgent settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Xi and Putin said that "solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict" is urgent. The approaches of the Russian Federation and the PRC to solving the Palestinian problem completely coincide. China, like Russia, has always stood on the side of justice and international law, advocate the creation of an independent Palestinian state, and support the granting of Palestine the status of a full member of the UN.

Xi Jinping called for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the release of civilians, called for unhindered passage of humanitarian aid, and proposed holding a representative peace conference on a "just and lasting solution" to the Palestinian issue and restoring Palestinian right to statehood.

"It is necessary to ensure the safe and unhindered passage of humanitarian aid and stop the collective punishment of Gazans through forced eviction, as well as the shutdown of water, electricity and oil," the PRC chairman said.

Economic interests

The Middle East conflict, as you know, is a long-standing and long-lasting factor in regional "bad weather" and global instability. For China, dependent on the supply of crude oil from this region, as well as safe maritime trade, regional settlement is of particular importance. Shipping in the Red Sea supported about 12% and almost a quarter of the flow of goods going to Europe and exported by EU countries.

In particular, China buys about 90% of crude oil exported by Iran. Iran, in turn, provides about 10% of Chinese oil imports. The increase in tariffs for cargo transportation to Europe is also not in the interests of China, even though individual shipping companies (Sea Legend Shipping) retained flights across the Red Sea while escorting ships of the Chinese Navy.

Although, from mid-October to mid-March, the number of Chinese vessels passing through the Suez Canal per week rose 73% from the previous six months, according to ship tracking company Windward. Lloyd’s List Intelligence Agency, reported in January 2024 that the share of China-related container ships passing through the Bab al-Mandab Strait in the Red Sea between Yemen and Djibouti rose to 28% and doubled compared to December 2023.

China remains Iran’s largest economic partner, which is especially significant for Tehran under sanctions. In 2021, the parties signed an agreement on a "comprehensive strategic partnership" for a period of 25 years. The document touches upon political and economic issues, Iran’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.

According to the PRC Ministry of Commerce, many companies doing business in Iran are involved in investment projects in the oil and gas industry, railway construction, and work in the steel and mining industries.

Trade is growing, but not all is smooth

On the other hand, Israel was the first Middle Eastern country to recognize the PRC. Over the past three decades, the parties have established diplomatic, economic and technological ties. So diverse that it began to bother Washington.

In 2020, China became Israel’s second partner in terms of trade, invested billions of dollars in the high-tech sector, and negotiated a free trade agreement. At the same time, the Israeli business community, following the instructions of the US and the EU, is gradually shifting its attention to India and other countries.

The government is said to be able to revoke the Shanghai International Port Group concession awarded to it to operate a container terminal at Haifa’s largest port.

In March, joint naval exercises of Iran, China and Russia took place in the Gulf of Oman. "These exercises are not aimed against any particular country and have nothing to do with the regional situation," Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said at a briefing.

He pointed out that China, Iran and Russia had also previously conducted joint exercises, which "are of great importance for strengthening cooperation and exchanges between the navies of the three countries and jointly ensuring regional maritime security."

Israel, for its part, joined the statement of the governments of fifty countries about China’s illegal actions in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The statement condemned "grave and systematic human rights violations" against Muslims of Uighur ethnicity. And the Israeli parliamentary delegation visited Taiwan and met with former President Tsai Ing-wen.

Last June, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted a photo in which he receives autographed copies of President Xi Jinping’s four-volume collection Governing China as a gift from Chinese Ambassador Tsai Rong. The meeting took place at the height of tensions between Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden over a judicial reform plan that the prime minister’s right-wing coalition pushed through parliament over White House objections.

Netanyahu noted that Xi sent him an invitation to visit China, stressing that the Jewish state has alternative sources of support and does not need to rely only on Washington. But that was almost a year ago, long before Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin expressed hope that the ICC would be objective in deciding whether to issue a warrant for his arrest.