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China Not Standing Idle in Gaza

Mar 05, 2024
  • He Wenping

    Research Fellow, West Asia and Africa Studies Institute of the China Academy of Social Sciences

The latest Palestinian-Israeli conflict has lasted four and a half months since its outbreak in October and resulted in nearly 30,000 Palestinian deaths, the destruction of nearly all infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and more than 2 million people left homeless, as well as a severe shortage of food, drinking water and medicine. The humanitarian disaster is intensifying with each passing day.

Some Western media recently accused China of standing idly by and being indifferent to the conflict and accompanying humanitarian crisis. The accusations are obviously biased and inconsistent with the facts. In fact, China has played an active role in providing humanitarian assistance and promoting cease-fire negotiations.

First of all, China has extended a helping hand in the humanitarian crisis in Gaza by providing assistance. To alleviate human suffering, China provided $2 million in emergency aid through the Palestinian National Authority and agencies of the United Nations, plus food, drugs and other supplies worth 15 million yuan ($2.1 million) to Gaza through Egypt. It has also promised to continue to give in response to the needs of the people in the Gaza strip.

A spokesman for China’s International Development Cooperation Agency said recently that the first Chinese aid shipment was delivered to the Palestinians in November (two months into the conflict) and arrived in Gaza via the Rafah crossing. All the medical supplies in the second shipment have been delivered to Egypt; food supplies have also been shipped. China has also announced a further assistance plan and is currently negotiating with relevant parties about the specifics of the third shipment for delivery to Gaza as soon as possible. In addition, China is also providing additional support and assistance to the people of Gaza through multilateral institutions, including the UN. 

China is helping to negotiate a cease-fire and peace solutions. As early as Oct. 14, just a week after the start of the conflict, Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in a phone conversation that China opposes and condemns all acts that harm civilians because they violate the basic human conscience and the basic norms of international relations. He said that Israel’s actions have gone beyond self-defense and it should heed the call of the international community and the UN secretary-general to stop its collective punishment of the people in Gaza.

Wang also called for all parties to refrain from any actions that escalate the situation and to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible. In November, as the rotating president of the UN Security Council, China made unremitting efforts for the council’s adoption of its first resolution on Gaza since the start of the conflict, laying the foundation for a brief one-week pause on the ground.

At the end of November, the Chinese government issued a position paper on resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, stressing the need for an immediate cease-fire so that humanitarian corridors would be safe and unimpeded, and preventing the expansion of the conflict. It is China’s view that the fundamental way out of this lies in the two-state solution and that an international consensus should be built for a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian question at an early date.

In addition to clearly stating its position at the start of the conflict and providing humanitarian assistance, China has also rallied countries in the global south to raise their collective voice. For example, on Nov. 21, BRICS leaders held a special online session on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and issued a joint statement urging an immediate and lasting humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. It was the first BRICS summit after the group’s expansion — and a rare one focusing on a specific event. Even Bloomberg described it as being “unprecedented.” It reflected the strong concerns and views of emerging market countries with respect to global security.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is an important geopolitical issue in the Middle East. The region is an important source of energy for China and includes critical partners in the Belt and Road Initiative. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China bears major-country responsibility in the building of peace in the Middle East. It is therefore impossible for China to ignore and stand idly by.

Today, even the United States, a staunch supporter of Israel, backs the “two-state solution.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the recent Munich Security Conference that it is “more urgent than ever” to proceed to a Palestinian state that ensures the security of Israel, as this would not only ensure long-term peace in the Middle East but also allow the U.S. to facilitate the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia.

The G-20 foreign ministers' meeting, which concluded recently, also saw Palestinian statehood as integral to the final solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This shows that the international community is fully able to reach agreement and bring hope to the desperate and suffering Palestinians.

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