China assisted in mediating an agreement earlier in 2023 that restored bilateral relations between Riyadh and Tehran after long years of standoff. Beijing appeared to have the financial clout and goodwill to act as a mediator in any disputes, given that it is a major economic ally of several Middle Eastern nations and a consumer of both Saudi and Iranian petroleum.
It went so far as to offer mediation for peace talks between Israel and Palestine. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority paid simultaneous visits to Beijing five months ago. It seemed as though Beijing was prepared to present itself as an alternative to the Washington’s potential to play the role of mediator. It may be impeded by US historical weight in the area and strong links to Israel.
Beijing’s aspirations to become a key role in the Middle East are being challenged less than half a year later by Israeli war against Gaza in response to Hamas rockets on southern Israel on October 7. On either side of the dispute, China has incentives. It even supplied the Palestinian Liberation Organization with weapons in the 1960s and 1970s as part of its long-standing advocacy for a solution involving two states. Beijing is currently Israel’s second-largest commercial partner, nevertheless.
China voted on Friday with 119 other countries in favor of a UNGA resolution that calls for a humanitarian cease-fire but is not legally obligatory.
However, China has thus far mostly avoided becoming involved in the war. It steered clear of taking front stage in mediating the detente between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Since the start of the war, China has maintained its neutral position and has persisted in advocating for a diplomatic settlement.
Chinese ministry of foreing affairs urged a de-escalation of clashes and for “relevant parties to remain calm, exercise restraint and immediately end the hostilities to protect civilians and avoid further deterioration of the situation” on October 8. It was one full day after Hamas kicked off an unexpected attack against Israel.
It also restated Beijing’s stance that the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is the only long-term resolution to the problem. Since then, the official line has mainly remained the same, with envoy Zhai Jun urging this week’s Cairo Peace Summit to bring an “immediate ceasefire and an end to the fighting as quickly as possible.”
China’s stance has been criticized for being either too “bland” or for arriving too late; Beijing waited a day to release a formal comment. Some analysts and observers, nevertheless, argued that this was a practical decision.
In order to present itself as the morally superior party by adopting a more neutral stance, Beijing wished to observe how other nations react first. Beijing is reluctant to make any explicit comments that it might have to repudiate if the early data prove incorrect, Considering the haze of war.
Beijing has chosen to stay impartial since it is in the long-run interests of the area for it to do so.