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Why did China turn against Israel on October 7?

Why did China turn against Israel on October 7?
Why did China turn against Israel on October 7?


Immediately after October 7, there was an outpouring of support for Israel around the world. Even countries that did not have particularly close relations with the Jewish state nevertheless saw fit to denounce the savagery of the massacre perpetrated by the Palestinians.

But there is one glaring exception to the chorus that has stood out with surprising distrust, which quickly escalated into hostility: the People's Republic of China.

The day after Hamas invaded southern Israel, which burned entire families alive and kidnapped children and Holocaust survivors, the government in Beijing issued a bland statement calling on all parties to “stay calm and show restraint. There was not a word of condemnation of Hamas or its murderous rampages, nor even an affirmation of Israel's right to defend itself.

Instead, Chinese officials began calling almost daily for the creation of a Palestinian state.

And as the IDF began its military operations in Gaza, China's criticism quickly took a harsher tone, accusing Israel of “collective punishment” and demanding an immediate ceasefire.

Beijing has also referred to Israelis held hostage in Gaza as “detained civilians” and frequently lumped them in with Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli prisons, as if there was a moral equivalence between the two.

On February 22, Ma Xinmin, director general of the Department of Treaties and Law of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, went further. In a speech to the International Court of Justice, he asserted that Palestinians had every right to engage in “armed struggle” against Israel, calling such violence “just actions.”

“In pursuit of the right to self-determination,” he insisted, “the use of force by the Palestinian people to resist foreign oppression and complete the establishment of an independent state is an inalienable right well founded in international law. »

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a welcoming ceremony at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China, October 17, 2023. (credit: Sputnik/Sergei Savostyanov/Pool via REUTERS)

China also hosted a Hamas delegation and attempted to broker a deal between the group and the Palestinian Authority.

And in mid-April, when Iran fired hundreds of ballistic missiles and drones at Israel, Beijing called the attack “self-defense.”

Chinese anti-Semitism

NO LESS disturbing are reports that anti-Semitism has increased on Chinese social media which, of course, is largely controlled and censored by the government.

According to a January report from the Brookings Institution, there is even a conspiracy theory known as “Project Pufferfish” that “alleges a Jewish plot in collaboration with Imperial Japan to colonize northeastern China” and that has “gained ground” among the Chinese.

On January 22, Aaron Keyak, the Biden administration's deputy special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, gave a speech to the American Bar Association in which he highlighted the worrying growth of anti-Semitic rhetoric online in China.

“I am particularly concerned,” he said, “since the Hamas attacks of October 7, there has been an increase in the People's Republic of China state media and online discourse of tropes anti-Semitic claims that Jews control the United States through deep ties between the United States and Israel. , as well as control over banks and the media, and that they have influence over government leaders.

CHINA'S POSITION since October 7 appears to contrast sharply with the steady warming of bilateral relations that took place before the Hamas attacks.

Last year, on June 27, 2023, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed to a delegation of visiting US congressmen that he had received an official invitation to Beijing.

Economic ties were thriving, with trade between the two countries growing from $50 million in 1992 to $17.6 billion in 2022. China took what many described as a more balanced approach than in the past to with regard to the Middle East.

But this balance has clearly given way to Chinese antagonism toward Israel.

Theories abound about what is behind this change, which has been anything but subtle or measured.

China appears to be positioning itself as a geopolitical competitor to the United States and seeks to undermine American influence in various parts of the world, with the Middle East being no exception.

In March 2023, Beijing stunned the world when it successfully brokered a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia that led to the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The move highlights China's efforts to insert itself into the region as a major player, with Beijing playing an important economic role in the region. Chinese trade with Arab countries soared to $330 billion in 2021, and China gets most of its oil from the Middle East.

After strengthening its relations with Russia and Iran, China took a position in direct opposition to American interests, thus linking itself to the “axis of resistance” that was formed.

Since Israel is considered an ally of America, the Chinese regime has made the unambiguous choice to strengthen its ties with Arab and Muslim states to the detriment of its relations with Jerusalem.

This was demonstrated recently at a summit of Arab leaders held in Beijing to strengthen cooperation. On May 30, according to CNN, China and delegates from 22 Arab countries “adopted a vehement joint statement condemning “Israel's aggression against the Palestinian people,” using “some of China's sharpest language yet this day on the conflict.

It remains to be seen how Israel will choose to respond to this marked shift in Chinese policy. But this cannot be left unaddressed, which could include measures to strengthen ties with Taiwan, as well as restricting Chinese investment in major Israeli infrastructure projects.

If China has chosen a side and is determined to stand with Israel's enemies, it may very well leave the Jewish state with no choice but to do the same with China's enemies.

The writer served as deputy communications director under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.




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