Using phrases that seem more characteristic of West European governments, the Chinese foreign minister and other officials stridently condemned Israel during its most recent round of fighting with Hamas. Some diplomats even made anti-Semitic comments about sinister Jewish influence. As Beijing has never even made a show of prioritizing human rights in its foreign policy, and has robust economic ties with the Jewish state, this hostility came as a surprise. Ilan Berman and Joshua Eisenman seek to explain this about-face:
Part of the answer can be found in China’s increasingly desperate efforts to shift the international conversation away from its ongoing genocide against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. By supporting the plight of the Palestinians, China is cynically stoking the most emotional issue in Middle Eastern politics in order to distract Muslim nations from its own domestic campaign to “break the lineage and roots” of Chinese Muslims via an extensive system of gulags.
At the same time, Beijing’s expanding investments throughout the Middle East in recent years (in arenas ranging from Lebanon’s telecom sector to assorted infrastructure projects in Egypt) have effectively bought the silence of Muslim governments when it comes to Chinese human-rights abuses. [And] China’s sprawling 25-year strategic pact with Iran is the centerpiece of its Mideast strategy.
China’s response to Israel’s recent conflict with Hamas should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers in Jerusalem. It highlights the fact that, despite its extensive financial stake, . . . there are real limits to China’s alignment with Israel. Indeed, the Israeli government’s recent backing of a Canadian-sponsored UN resolution on the Xinjiang genocide suggests that a rethink on China policy may already be under way.
More about: Guardian of the Walls, Iran, Israel-China relations, Uighurs