China ‘paralysed by Israel Hamas war’ but could overtake US in Middle East

The Israel-Hamas war has left China “paralysed” in the Middle East, with its ambitions left unrealised due to the burgeoning conflict.

Chinese officials have, in recent years, attempted to firm relations with both Israel and Palestine and take on a larger role in the region, putting the nation up against the US on another front.

China’s ambitions are primarily economic, as the country has poured investments into “Global South” and non-aligned nations.

But the country has also offered diplomatic assistance, including with peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Escalation of the conflict has already tested the nation’s tactics, and experts believe it has hit a wall.

READ MORE: Despairing mother begs for her daughter’s release by Hamas

Speaking to the Times of Israel, Shi Yinhong, professor of international relations at the Renmin University of China, said the country has failed to make itself heard since the conflict exploded earlier this month.

He said: “For a while at least, Beijing’s Middle East policy is paralysed by the war.

“The US, which strongly supports Israel, is directly or indirectly involved. Who is there to listen to China?”

While Professor Yinhong has suggested China is not being listened to, its representatives have made an impression with Israel.

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Beijing angered the nation when it stated its neutrality following Hamas’s shock October 7 attack and asked both sides to “remain calm” as western countries declared their unwavering backing for Israel.

Chinese representatives failed to condemn the terrorists’ actions, and this has left insiders feeling their Israeli counterparts have lost confidence in their ability to negotiate.

A senior diplomat told the Financial Times that, while China “can negotiate something between Saudi Arabia and Iran”, its actions have not created “any great confidence on the Israeli side”.

They added that the failure to condemn Hamas has made it clear China cannot “arbitrate or mediate” the situation despite its aims.

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They said: “If you have a massacre of 1,000 people, and China is not able to say clearly what that is, then it is clear they are not able to arbitrate or mediate the conflict for both sides.”

Nevertheless, Chinese investment in the Middle East has so far outcompeted the US in several key areas, including in Iran, Kuwait and Iraq, with Iran following Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates into China’s Brics grouping.

In the long run, experts believe the closer ties with Arab nations will benefit Beijing.

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