China has condemned the attacks launched by Hamas in Israel, following pressure from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement condemning “all violence and attacks on civilians” and stating that the most urgent task is to reach a ceasefire and restore peace.
However, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not name Hamas and refused to describe the attacks as an act of terrorism. The Chinese Embassy in Israel has labelled Hamas militants as terrorists after a young woman of Israeli and Chinese heritage was among hostages seized by Hamas fighters, avoiding direct condemnation to maintain its influence in developing countries.
China has always leaned toward the Arab world and even nonstate actors backed by rogue states. China is trying to take a position of greater neutrality than the United States and be seen as a more neutral or honest broker, not necessarily aligned with Israel as the United States.
Since 2013, China has significantly enhanced its relations with Israel, particularly in the areas of scientific and technological advancements, including military technology.
China’s ambiguous stance towards recent attacks on Israel is intended to maintain relations with regional powers like Saudi Arabia and contrast with US efforts to mediate the conflict. In March, Saudi Arabia and Iran resumed diplomatic relations, a deal brokered by China that was seen as increasing Beijing’s geopolitical power in the region.
China is actively involved in brokering rapprochement between its long-standing Middle East rivals, focusing on strategic and symbolic dimensions. The US has been trying to broker a peace agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, which would be seen as a diplomatic setback for Iran, which has long been identified as an important backer of Hamas.
Carice Witte, founder and executive director of Israel-based think tank Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership, said that while China does not want to see attacks on Israel like those over the weekend, it does want Saudi Arabia to stay on China’s side.
The normalization process, particularly following recent events, is expected to encourage cooperation between Arab states and Israel, as Israel has labelled Hamas’ weekend attacks as its “9/11” incident, highlighting the significant impact on Israelis.