BEIJING — China said Wednesday it has established a “strategic partnership” with the Palestinian Authority during a visit to Beijing by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
The announcement marks another step in China’s campaign to gain political and economic influence in the Middle East, where it is competing for influence with the United States.
China is seeking energy resources and markets for its military and civilian exports, while promoting its version of authoritarian government in a joint challenge with Russia to the Western-led democratic world order.
China has appointed a special envoy to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials, but its experience in the region is mainly limited to construction, manufacturing and other economic projects.
Beijing has long maintained diplomatic ties with the Palestinian Authority and Abbas was welcomed with full military honors at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing.
“We are good friends and partners,” Chinese president and head of the ruling Communist Party Xi Jinping told Abbas at the start of their meeting. “We have always firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate national rights.”
“China is willing to strengthen coordination and cooperation with the Palestinian side to promote a comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue as soon as possible,” he said.
Xi called the strategic partnership an “important milestone in the history of bilateral relations,” but its financial details were not immediately released.
China relies on such partnerships to bolster its diplomatic posture and give large Chinese corporations a leg-up when negotiating infrastructure deals in line with the government’s “Belt and Road Initiative” that has left many struggling countries in deep debt to Chinese banks.
China has also sought close ties with Israel to both expand its diplomatic presence and gain access to high technology.
Abbas’s visit comes after China recently hosted talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia that resulted in the restoring of diplomatic relations between the two Mideast rivals and boosting China’s standing in the region.
The Riyadh-Tehran rapprochement is seen as a diplomatic victory for China as Gulf Arab states perceive the United States as slowly withdrawing from the wider region.