An unusual thing has happened in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. China wants to play the role of mediator to reach a peace agreement.
Amid the threat of the war expanding to the entire Middle East, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi held discussions with US officials in Washington. America has decided that it will work together with China to find a solution.
First China’s Special Ambassador to the Middle East Zai Jun went to meet Arab leaders and then Wang Yi spoke to his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. Even in United Nations meetings, China is openly advocating ceasefire.
It is expected that due to its close relations with Iran, China can help in reducing the tension because Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon get help from Iran only.
According to the news of the Financial Times, American officials have put pressure on Wang to ask the Iranians to adopt a lenient stance.
China is Iran’s biggest trading partner. This year, China played an important role in reducing tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Iran also says that it is ready to increase dialogue with China to resolve the situation arising in Gaza.
Don Murphy, associate professor at the National War College under the US Department of Defense, is an expert on China’s foreign policy.
He says that China’s relations with all sides of this conflict have been comparatively balanced.
Middle East Politics
Professor Don Murphy says, “China has had positive relations especially with the Palestinians. On the other hand, America has good relations with Israel. In such a situation, both of them (China and America) can bring all the parties together for talks.”
But other analysts believe that China is a ‘small player’ in Middle East politics. “China cannot be considered a serious party in this whole issue,” says Jonathan Fulton, an expert on China’s relations with the Middle East and non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.
Israel was angered by China’s first reaction to the situation arising after Hamas’ attack on Israel. China is now heavily dependent on oil imports from abroad.
Experts estimate that half of the oil needed by China comes from the Gulf. Apart from this, many countries of the Middle East are included in the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI), which is important for China’s foreign and economic policy.
But another reason is that this conflict has presented an opportunity for China to shine its image. Dr Murphy says that China feels that standing with the Palestinians will help in getting closer to Arab countries, Muslim majority countries and overall a large part of the Global South.