As Prime Minister Netanyahu arrived in Shanghai Monday hailing Israel-China trade relations, Beijing appeared to be rebuking Israel for attacking its neighbor to the north.
“We oppose the use of military force and believe any country’s sovereignty should be respected,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters in a briefing, avoiding mentioning the Jewish state by name. “China also calls on all relevant parties to begin from the basis of protecting regional peace and stability, maintain restraint and avoid taking any actions that would escalate tensions and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability,” Hua said.
The comments came a day after the Israeli Air Force reportedly struck targets around Damascus storing a shipment of advanced Iranian missiles en route to Hezbollah terrorists, in the second such attacks in three days, raising the ire of Syria, Hezbollah, Iran and much of the Arab world.
Asked if China would urge Netanyahu to stop airstrikes, Hua said the Israeli prime minister had yet to meet Chinese leaders. Netanyahu is due in Beijing on Wednesday, following Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s departure from the city a day earlier.
Netanyahu began his five-day China trip by checking out technological innovations in Shanghai.
Standing next to a wall displaying the logos of the companies operating in a high-tech park, Netanyahu expressed optimism regarding future business opportunities for Israel and China.
“We see here the logos of many of the world’s leading companies,” he said. “I hope that we will soon see on this wall the logos of many Israeli companies. This is the goal — to expand bilateral economic cooperation and significantly increase Israeli exports to China.”
In a meeting with Israeli business leaders, Netanyahu said it was his job to represent their interests to the Chinese government.
Meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China’s legislature, Sunday, Abbas reviewed the history of their peoples’ relations stretching back to the 1960s and said the two shared the “same views on many world problems.”
“I appreciate China’s high position in the world nowadays,” Abbas said in opening remarks at the meeting, which was followed by the signing of agreements on technical cooperation and cultural exchanges.
China recognized a Palestinian state in 1988, four years before establishing diplomatic ties with Israel.
China’s Foreign Ministry said last week it would be willing to help set up a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu if the two men wanted. Talks between the Israeli and Palestinian sides have been deadlocked for four years and there was no indication a meeting would take place.
China has traditionally maintained a low profile in Middle East diplomacy, but in recent years has tried to play a more active role in the region as part of its quest for markets, resources and diplomatic influence. Beijing has sought stable relations with both sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but has been criticized along with Russia by many for strongly opposing international intervention in Syria.