China’s top diplomat welcomed foreign ministers from four Arab countries and Indonesia to Beijing on Monday, saying his country would work with “our brothers and sisters” in the Arab and Islamic world to try to end the war in Gaza as soon as possible.
The ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Indonesia chose to start their tour of world capitals in Beijing, a testament to both China’s growing geopolitical influence and its support for the Palestinians.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the foreign diplomats that their decision to start in Beijing shows their high level of trust in his nation.
“China is a good friend and brother of Arab and Islamic countries,” Wang said in opening remarks at a state guesthouse before their talks began. “We have always firmly safeguarded the legitimate rights and interests of Arab (and) Islamic countries and have always firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people.”
China has long backed the Palestinians and been quick to denounce Israel over its settlements in the West Bank. It has not criticized Hamas’s onslaught on October 7 — which killed about 1,200 people and started the war — while the United States and others have called it an act of terrorism. However, China does have growing economic ties with Israel.
On October 7, some 3,000 terrorists breached the border from the Gaza Strip and then rampaged through southern Israel, murdering those they found, most of them civilians. The attackers also abducted at least 240 people, including the elderly and infants, and took them to Gaza as hostages. The attack came under a barrage of thousands of rockets fired at Israel, which Hamas and other terror groups have continued to rain on Israel, displacing many thousands of people.
Israel responded by launching an aerial campaign and a subsequently a ground offensive aimed at toppling the Gaza-ruling terror group and securing the release of the hostages.
The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, called for an immediate ceasefire and the entry of humanitarian aid and relief to the Gaza Strip.
“There are still dangerous developments ahead of us and an urgent humanitarian crisis that requires an international mobilization to deal with and counter it,” he said.
He added that they appreciated the resolution issued by the United Nations Security Council calling for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses in Gaza, “but we still need more efforts and cooperation.”
China — the world’s second-largest economy after the US — has become increasingly outspoken on international affairs and has gotten directly involved in some recently, albeit cautiously.
In March, Beijing helped broker an agreement that saw Saudi Arabia and Iran reestablish ties after seven years of tension, in a role previously reserved for longtime global heavyweights like the US and Russia.
The five foreign ministers will visit a number of capitals in an effort to pursue a ceasefire, get aid into Gaza and end the war, Prince Faisal said last weekend. The secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Hissein Brahim Taha, is also accompanying them to Beijing.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims that 13,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war on October 7, including at least 5,500 children and 3,500 women. The figures provided by the terror group cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and Hamas operatives, and also do not address those killed by failed Palestinian rocket launches.
“This isn’t Israel’s first war against the Palestinian people,” said Riyad Al-Maliki, the Palestinian Authority foreign minister. “However, Israel wants this to be its last war, where it takes full control of the Palestinian people’s presence on what’s left of the historical land of Palestine.”
Israel’s ambassador to China, Irit Ben-Abba, said Monday that her country is allowing sufficient humanitarian aid into Gaza in collaboration with international organizations and that “putting pressure on Israel in this regard is politically motivated and is not conducive to the humanitarian assistance which is needed.”
She also said that Israel hoped for “no one-sided” resolution by the Security Council and expected a clear statement calling for the “unconditional release of the 240 hostages” who were abducted by Hamas during its attacks, “rather than calling for a ceasefire.”
There has reportedly been a sharp rise in antisemitism in China following the Hamas attack, similar to spikes in other countries around the world.
Earlier this month, officials and researchers told The New York Times that Iran, Russia, and China are using state media and social media to undercut Israel and the US and support Hamas.