Foreign Affairs
China’s Strategic Maneuvering: Undermining US Influence in Israel-Hamas Conflict

China is likely to use the Israel-Hamas conflict to diminish Washington’s global influence while boosting its own, according to analysts. China has been attacking the US on its state media over the Middle East conflict, claiming that Washington’s one-sided military support for Israel is fueling tensions and increasing the humanitarian crisis. A Chinese expert suggested that Washington should sit both sides down for negotiations instead of sending warships to the region to boost Israel’s morale.

Dennis Wilder, former National Security Council director, said that China is using the crisis to reinforce its domestic propaganda that paints the US as supporting Israel which has denied the Palestinian people their right to their own state. David Satterfield, director of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said that China is endlessly opportunistic, seeking opportunities to advance its global reach and be seen as an ally or friend of the Global South. However, Satterfield said that in this conflict and the Middle East more broadly, China has very little influence.

China’s policy focus on nonintervention has caught Beijing in a box, as they fear that a real stance on the Gaza crisis could affect them. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin called for an end to violence, condemnation of actions against civilians, and avoiding further escalation. He did not condemn Hamas by name and said Beijing is ready to coordinate with the Arab League to bring a peace process in the Middle East.

China’s President Xi Jinping has largely remained silent on the issue, but its diplomats have been talking to other countries about the crisis. China’s special envoy for the Middle East since 2019 spoke with Egypt’s assistant foreign minister responsible for the Palestine department, offering to promote a cease-fire and end violence.

Chinese Foreign Ministry to ask why it has not condemned Hamas for its murderous attacks while criticizing Washington’s support for Israel. The ministry did not reply. Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at SOAS University of London, said that China’s refusal to condemn Hamas signals its support for the Global South, but how much good it will do to China in cementing support in the Global South is questionable.

Tuvia Gering, researcher for the Diane and Guilford Glazer Israel-China Policy Center at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said that China will do everything it can to avoid being drawn into the conflict and maintain its fake neutrality.

Assessing the U.S. Strategic Posture: Congressional Commission Findings has released its final report, emphasizing the need for Washington to deter and defeat multiple adversaries from 2027 to 2035. The report calls for an urgent national focus and concerted actions not currently planned. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated that the U.S. can project power and direct resources to tackle crises in multiple theatres and support both Israel and Ukraine simultaneously.

Grant Rumley, a Goldberger Fellow with the Washington Institute’s Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation Program on Great Power Competition and the Middle East, emphasized the importance of showing Beijing that it can support Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan simultaneously. Some analysts suggest that the Gaza crisis could work to America’s advantage in its rivalry with China, as more American diplomatic attention to the Middle East and core conflicts would diminish the space for China to insert itself diplomatically.

ChinaChina's Strategic Maneuvering: Undermining US Influence in Israel-Hamas ConflictIsrael-Hamas ConflictMiddle EastMiddle East conflictUnited StatesUS