Arab states welcome China's role in Mideast stability
Published: Nov 29, 2023 07:50 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

To demonstrate China's commitment to ending hostilities in Gaza and finding a solution to the Palestine-Israel issue, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will chair a Security Council high-level meeting about the subject at the UN headquarters on November 29.

China's behavior at the UN is not surprising. In fact, it is consistent with its balanced policy toward the Palestine-Israel conflict. Since October 7, China has been persistently calling upon the key players in the conflict to exercise restraint and end hostilities to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control and engulfing the whole region. In addition, Chinese officials have gone beyond the short-term measures and requested that the international community take serious steps to resolve the conflict comprehensively and permanently.

At the recent BRICS extraordinary virtual summit on the Palestine-Israel issue, President Xi Jinping said that "the only viable way to break the cycle of Palestine-Israel conflict lies in the two-state solution, in the restoration of the legitimate national rights of Palestine, and in the establishment of an independent State of Palestine." China's position is aligned not only with that of the Arab and Islamic countries, but also with that of the global majority and the numerous UNSC resolutions.

The global consensus on establishing an immediate ceasefire was demonstrated during the emergency special session of the UN General Assembly on October 27 when a draft resolution was adopted by 120 countries, including all Arab/Muslim countries and China. Although the passing of the General Assembly resolution was a political success, it did not materially change the reality on the ground because it was not legally binding.

Mandated by the recent Joint Arab Islamic Extraordinary Summit to visit the five permanent members of the UNSC, a delegation of foreign ministers, representing the Arab and Muslim world, arrived in Beijing on November 20. The purpose of the visit was to discuss ways of establishing an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Choosing China as the first stop of their diplomacy tour was not random. This shows that there is growing trust and goodwill for China in the Arab and Muslim world.  

China has been actively engaged in regional diplomacy and proposed several initiatives. It has put forward a five-point initiative on Middle East security, a three-point proposal for settlement of the Palestinian question, and a four-point solution to the Syrian issue. All these initiatives are largely aligned with the Arab view on how to ensure regional security and stability. They are also part of China's vision for "A Global Community of Shared Future."

The US and some other Western governments have shown their unconditional support for Israel during the current Gaza crisis. However, Arab and Muslim officials are trying to re-internationalize the Palestine-Israel peace process, paving the way for China and other major countries to play a larger role. In the eyes of many people in the Arab and Muslim world, the US has lost credibility and legitimacy to continue its monopoly over the peace process.  

Although the Quartet on the Middle East, comprising the US, Russia, the UN and the EU, was established in 2002 to mediate between the Palestinians and Israelis, the US has monopolized the peace process. Over the last decades, the successive US administrations have shown increasing bias and prejudice against Palestinians, further worsening the situation, and complicating the whole peace process. The US has not used its leverage to put pressure on the Israelis to implement the two-state solution. 

The current Gaza crisis has reconfirmed the US' partiality, unreliability and unpredictability. As a result, the US' reputation as the sole mediator and sponsor of the peace process has been forever tarnished.  

In contrast, China seems to be fully aligned with the Arab and Muslim world's position. At the recent BRICS extraordinary joint meeting, President Xi Jinping called for "early convening of an international peace conference that is more authoritative to build international consensus for peace and work toward an early solution to the question of Palestine that is comprehensive, just and sustainable." The use of the words "more authoritative" is noteworthy as it implicitly highlights the failure of the previous peace process to create a just solution and underlines the need for a new approach. Therefore, a stronger international grouping with a firm authority is expected to be established to finally resolve the conflict permanently. 

China is viewed by the Arab and Muslim world as a re-emerging power, whose rise is causing a major power realignment in the world, including in West Asia. Many in the Arab and Muslim world see China's diplomatic growth as a positive development that will help restore legitimacy in the global governance system and rebalance the world order. The Arab and Muslim countries want China to succeed in achieving its 2035 and 2049 strategic objectives. They see mutually beneficial complementarity between their aspirations and those of China, especially regarding the need to reinforce multilateralism and establish a balanced world order.

Considering China's positive contributions to the Middle East's stability and its rising status as a responsible global power, China is expected to have a larger say and a more visible role in regional diplomacy in the coming years. China's diplomatic footprint will continue to grow in West Asia, underpinned by the convergence of its interests with those of the regional players and the rapidly expanding economic partnerships between the two sides.

China's rise as a diplomatic giant is as important as its ascendancy as an economic power. Many in the Arab and Muslim world have high expectations of China and they believe that China is steadily and confidently rising to the global governance and security challenges. Now, China has an opportunity to consolidate its diplomatic position in the region by helping the concerned parties to implement a lasting solution to the region's overarching issue.

The author is former adviser to the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Office, an authority responsible for Abu Dhabi's long-term strategies, and former head of the strategy division of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). He is currently a visiting scholar at the Asia Global Institute of the University of Hong Kong. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn