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By: Alaa al-Deek [*].
(Exclusively for al-Zaytouna Centre).

The Palestinian-Chinese relationship was forged following the Bandung Conference in 1955, which upheld principles of peaceful coexistence in international relations and the rejection of foreign occupation in all its forms. This coincided with the Arab peoples’ struggle to rid themselves of colonialism and foreign occupation.

In 1964, a delegation from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) visited China and conferred with the Chinese leadership. During the visit, Chinese leadership emphasized the justice of the Palestine issue and authorized the opening of a PLO office in Beijing. This move bolstered the organization’s position at the regionally and internationally at the time.

Upon China’s reinstatement to the United Nations (UN) and the recovery of its permanent seat in 1971, a significant moment given China’s status as one of the charter’s founding members in 1942, and with the announcement of the principles of its new diplomacy in 1978, the most important of which its “reform and opening-up” policy encapsulating “comprehensive Chinese modernization,” China reaffirmed its dedication to the UN charter and its objectives. Emphasizing respect for the sovereignty and rights of states, non-interference of others and non-aggression, China aimed at fostering security, peace, stability and prosperity universally. Accordingly, China pledged its commitment to the justness of the Palestine issue, advocating for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people in accordance with international law and pertinent resolutions. This commitment translated into steadfast support for the Palestinian case in international forums, with China earnestly pursuing its resolution.

Also, with the outbreak of the first Palestinian Intifadah against the occupation in 1987, and the subsequent political and field developments, in December 1988 the UN recognized the sovereignty of the Palestinian state within the borders of the Fourth of June 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital. China endorsed and voted in favor of it, while the US and Israel voted against it, thereby defying international consensus. Notably, 104 countries supported the resolution. Consequently, China recognized the Palestinian state and formalized diplomatic relations with it.

Furthermore, aligning with the Palestinians’ and Arabs’ decision to participate in the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, and pursue negotiation as a means to address core issues through the peace process with Israel, China has consistently supported this political process. It has steadfastly affirmed its enduring stance on the justness of the Palestine issue and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian Arab people in accordance with international law.

And with the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel in January 1992, China reiterated its steadfast stance regarding the justice of the Palestine issue and the rights of the Palestinian people. Therefore, China’s position remains clear and unequivocal: China does not forge relations with others at the expense of others’ rights. Consequently, China’s position on Palestine has remained consistent both before and after the political process between the two involved parties.

Moreover, following the signing of the Oslo Accords in September 1993, and the declaration of the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority (PA) in 1994, China welcomed the agreement and the formation of Palestinian state institutions. It announced its endorsement of the political path aimed at establishing an independent and sovereign Palestinian state along the borders of the Fourth of June 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with the international law.

Following the conclusion of the transitional phase of the Oslo Accords in 1999, which failed to acknowledge the political rights and aspirations of the Palestinian people for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state as agreed upon by the involved parties, the second Palestinian Intifadah broke out in 2000. It led to the Israeli destruction of the Palestinian institutional infrastructure, reoccupation of all PA areas, and the three-year-long siege of the late Palestinian President Yasir ‘Arafat within the confines of his compound “Muqata‘a” in Ramallah, until his death in 2004, amid Palestinian accusations of Israeli involvement in his demise. In response, China opposed unilateral measures by Israel and stressed the need to implement the agreed-upon terms between the two parties, leading to the establishment of a sovereign and internationally recognized Palestinian state in accordance with international law.

In addition, following the election of Mahmud ‘Abbas as the president of Palestine in 2005, and the election of the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, where Hamas secured the majority of seats, China welcomed the results of both elections. It stressed that it respects the people’s choices and expressed readiness to collaborate with legitimate Palestinian institutions. This collaboration aimed to support the political process and fulfill international obligations in line with international law and the principles of international relations. China’s approach is grounded in mutual respect for the state sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, rejection of aggression, and aspiration to achieve stability and prosperity for Palestine and the broader region.

The internal Palestinian division between the West Bank (WB) and Gaza Strip (GS) in 2007, was due to the profound internal differences within the Palestinian leadership, with one faction favoring political settlement, while the other pursued armed resistance. Consequently, the Palestinian Authority, under PLO control, governed WB, while Hamas government has controlled GS completely. In June 2007, Israel imposed a total blockade on GS, in response to the success of Hamas in the elections and its GS control. Therefore, China called on all Palestinian parties to unite, emphasizing the importance of presenting a unified position in regional and international forums, to uphold justice for the Palestine issue, and ensure continued support for Palestinian rights from friends and supporters. Additionally, China called for the lifting of the GS blockade.

On 29/11/2012, the UN passed a resolution granting Palestine a non-member observer state status, in line with international law and the justness of the Palestine issue, where 138 countries voted in favor of the resolution, China supported it, while the US, Israel and their allies opposed it.

Amidst the cessation of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in April 2014, which began in July 2013, as a result of Israel’s persistent unilateral policies, non-compliance with the signed agreements, refusal to halt settlement building and release prisoners, and the continuation of house demolitions and land confiscation to support settlements, China opposed these unilateral measures. Israel’s refusal to stop its actions in Jerusalem and the occupied territories, and non-compliance with the international resolution condemning settlement activity, UN Resolution No. 2334 issued in December 2016, were also noted. Therefore, China emphasized its stance against unilateral measures that undermine the principle of a two-state solution, and called on Israel to adhere to international law, legitimacy resolutions and signed agreements. Additionally, China called on the US not to ignore the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, reaffirming its unwavering position on the justice of the Palestine issue amid these challenging circumstances.

In December 2017, the Trump administration announced its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, without any regard for international law and resolutions concerning the Palestine issue and the legal status of Jerusalem. Subsequently, in May 2018, the US relocated its embassy to Jerusalem. These actions obstructed the political prospects for resolving the Palestinian issue in line with international law and relevant resolutions. The US’s support for Israeli unilateral measures, coupled with its dismissal of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people in international forums, further complicated the situation. The US also supported the path of normalization between the Arabs and Israel, which deviated from resolving the Palestine issue, with the aim of regionalizing its conclusion. Consequently, China reiterated its rejection of US’s duplicitous stance in ignoring the Palestine issue, and called on Israel to adhere to international law and stop all unilateral measures that undermine the path toward a two-state political solution based on international law and legitimate resolutions. China reaffirmed its staunch opposition to any such unilateral measures.

Since the outbreak of the war between Israel and Hamas on 7/10/2023, Israel has persisted in a comprehensive and open war against the Palestinians, ignoring international law and UN resolutions. Despite a UN resolution on 27/10/2023, calling for a ceasefire, protection of civilians and a humanitarian truce, with 120 countries voted in favor—including China; the US, Israel and its allies voted against the resolution. Earlier, the US vetoed a Russian-Chinese draft resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an end to the war on GS. Consequently, the US and its allies continue to support Israel in its ongoing war, despite widespread official and popular calls for a halt to the conflict and condemnations for violating international laws and charters.

In response, China promptly condemned the aggression against the Palestinian people and demanded an immediate cessation of Israel’s all-out war. China also urged the United States to acknowledge the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and refrain from employing double standards regarding the Palestine issue. It called for the avoidance of further unilateral measures in the region that support Israel and exacerbate the conflict. China emphasized that the root cause of the ongoing crisis is the prolonged neglect of the Palestine issue for more than 30 years, leading to frustration and despair among Palestinians. The continued denial of justice to the Palestinian people for over six decades is deemed unacceptable, and it is imperative to resolve the issue without further delay. China firmly advocates for the Palestinian people’s right to establish an independent and sovereign state and enjoy equal rights like other nations. Therefore, China staunchly calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and the convening of an international peace conference characterized by credibility, pluralism, seriousness and rigor. The primary objective of such a conference should be to achieve a comprehensive and just solution to the Palestine issue in accordance with international law and legitimate resolutions, ultimately leading to the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state.

In brief, Chinese diplomacy regarding the justice of the Palestine issue and the realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people has been consistently “effective and resolute.” Over the past 65 years, China has steadfastly advocated for justice and fairness for the Palestinian people, despite all the challenges and obstacles faced by the Palestinian issue. The Chinese position has remained firm and effective in supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for freedom, independence and self-determination. China has stood alongside friends in the UN Security Council and blocked a US resolution condemning the Palestinian struggle against the occupation and legitimizing the all-out war against the Palestinian people. Chinese diplomacy continues to serve as a guiding light in the pursuit of the Palestinian dream of establishing an independent and sovereign state in accordance with international law. Despite challenges, including the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine and deliberate disregard for Palestinian rights by the United States and its allies, China remains committed to resolving the Palestinian issue and ending injustice against the Palestinian people through its effective diplomatic efforts.

[*] A researcher specializing in Chinese affairs and international relations, currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, Shanghai University of International Studies.

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 22/2/2024

The opinions expressed in all the publications and studies are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of al-Zaytouna Centre.

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