Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is expected to arrive in Beijing on Tuesday for a three-day visit, will be the first Arab leader to be hosted by China this year.
The visit is seen as a sign of China’s ongoing effort to increase its influence in the Middle East at a time when the US has refocused its attention on the Indo-Pacific region and Ukraine. It’s further seen as a sign of strengthened relations between the Palestinians and China, which has long been critical of Israeli policies and measures.
Abbas’s visit to China comes shortly after Beijing helped broker the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It also comes in the aftermath of China’s offer to help Israel and the Palestinians resume peace negotiations, which have been stalled since 2014.
The last meeting between Abbas and Chinese President Xi Jinping took place in December 2022 at the China-Arab Summit held in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. During a speech at the summit, Jinping affirmed his country’s support for the Palestinians’ efforts to gain full membership in the United Nations.
“We firmly support the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital."- President Xi Jinping
“President Abbas is an old and good friend of the Chinese people and the first Arab head of state to be hosted by China this year,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters over the weekend. “This speaks volumes about the high-level friendly relations between China and Palestine.”
China encourages peace talks
Wenbin pointed out that China was one of the first countries “to recognize the PLO and the State of Palestine.” He added: “In recent years, thanks to the personal guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Abbas, the China-Palestine relations have maintained a good momentum of growth with stronger political mutual trust and deeper friendship between the two people. China stands ready to work with Palestine to follow through on the common understandings of leaders of the two countries and take the China-Palestine traditional friendship to new heights.”
The Chinese official also noted that Beijing has firmly supported the Palestinians’ “just cause for restoring their legitimate national rights.”
The Chinese president has more than once put forward proposals for resolving the Palestinian issue based on the two-state solution, he said, adding that as a member of the United Nations Security Council, China will continue to work with the international community for a comprehensive and enduring solution.
In April, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang announced that Beijing was ready to facilitate peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The announcement was made during separate phone calls to Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen and PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki. The Chinese minister said his country encouraged both sides to “show political courage and take steps to resume peace talks.”
In March, Abbas met in Ramallah with Special Envoy of the Chinese Government on the Middle East Issue, Zhai Jun, and congratulated Beijing for successfully presiding over the Saudi Arabia-Iran dialogue and mediating the deal between the two sides. Abbas told the envoy that the Palestinians highly appreciate China upholding a just position on the Palestinian issue and expect China to play a constructive role in promoting a fair and early settlement.