Chinese Official Meets with Hamas Politburo Head in Qatar

Chinese Ambassador’s Meeting with Haniyeh

On March 18th, Wang Kejian, an ambassador for China’s West Asia and North Africa Department at the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, met with Ismail Haniyeh, the Chairman of Hamas’ Politburo, and other senior officials in Qatar. China’s Ambassador to Qatar, Cao Xiaolin, also attended meeting with Wang and Haniyeh. According to various social media sources, Haniyeh and Wang discussed the political developments and the overall situation in the Gaza Strip. They also discussed the potential to provide aid to the displaced people “in light of the killing, famine, and the massacres.” Haniyeh also stressed to Wang that the war “needs to be ended quickly, the IDF needs to withdraw from Gaza, and an independent Palestinian state needs to be established.”

Wang, Ambassador Cao and Chinese delegation seated across from Haniyeh and the Hamas delegation during meeting (Photo: X, formally Twitter/@Danale)

Hamas also reported that the ambassador “emphasized the close and historical relations between the Palestinian and Chinese people, and China’s steadfast positions on the Palestinian issue.” Furthermore, Wang also highlighted the country’s position on the Palestinian’s resistance to the Palestinian people’s just demands for freedom, independence and a state.” However, the report also said that Wang emphasized the killing of Palestinians, providing for their welfare, and emphasized that “Hamas is part of the Palestinian national fabric and China is eager to establish relations with it.”

Other Parts of Wang’s Trip

Before he met with Haniyeh and other senior Hamas officials, Wang also made other stops in Middle East, such as Egypt, the West Bank, and Israel. On March 10th, Wang traveled to Cairo, where he met with Khalid Manzalawi, the Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League. Wang and Khalid discussed implementing the goals from the China-Arab States Summit and preparing for the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum to improve China-Arab cooperation and relations.

Both individuals also discussed the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, with both sides highlighting that the conflict caused “a serious humanitarian crisis, and it is urgent to implement a comprehensive ceasefire and end the war.” Wang said that China will continue to work with both Arab and Islamic countries to promote a comprehensive, just, and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue based on the “two-state solution.” Khalid said that the Arba League appreciates China’s constructive role in stopping the war in the Gaza Strip and urged the international community to increase efforts to stop the conflict.

Wang shaking hands with Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki during meeting on March 13th

Wang then traveled to the West Bank and met with Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki and other senior officials on March 13th. Wang said that both China and Palestine have a traditional friendship and have always firmly supported each other. He also said that the humanitarian situation caused by the conflict in Gaza is “extremely serious” and that China is deeply concerned about the crisis. China, Wang pointed out, has worked hard “to end the violence and protect civilians” since the beginning of the conflict. He then said that China will continue to work with the international community to end the ongoing conflict “as soon as possible” and to make efforts towards “a comprehensive, just and lasting solution” to the Palestinian issue based on the “two-state solution.”

Al-Maliki said that both sides are good friends and partners and that China “firmly stands with the Palestinian people.” Furthermore, the country also made several efforts to “ease the conflict” by providing large amounts of humanitarian assistance to Gaza. He also said that the Palestinians are “deeply grateful” and look forward to China “playing a greater role” in ending the ongoing war and resolving the Palestinian issue.

Wang standing with the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry’s Acting Deputy Director-General for Asia-Pacific Affairs, Rachel Feinmesser on March 14th

Wang then traveled to Israel on March 14th, where he met with the Deputy Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Rachel Feinmesser, and the ministry’s Acting Deputy Director-General for Asia-Pacific Affairs, Hagai Shagrir. Wang pointed out that China and Israel are “innovative comprehensive partners,” and bilateral relations have rapidly developed in recent years. However, he then pointed out how the ongoing war in Gaza “caused serious casualties and property losses” in both Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Wang then said the “top priority” is to enact a ceasefire that would lead to the end of the conflict, provide the necessary humanitarian assistance, and protect civilians. He also said the priority is a “political settlement of the Palestinian issue on the basis of the two-state solution” to create the states of Israel and Palestine that peacefully coexist. Israeli officials said that Israel places great importance on relations with China and “is willing to work” with the country to further increase their bilateral relationship. However, the officials also informed China of its “positions and concerns” regarding the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Analysis

While Wang’s trip is notable since it is the first time an official from China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry visited Israel and Palestine since the October 7th attack, the trip illustrates how the country is continuing its balancing approach to the conflict. For example, Wang reiterated China’s stance regarding how to ultimately end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which is a two-state solution. The statements about Wang’s meetings with the Arab League’s Assistance General Secretary, the Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister, and Israeli officials illustrate this dynamic.

The statements from the Arab League Assistance Secretary General and Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister meetings contained the same phrase of China wanting to find “a comprehensive, just, and lasting solution” to the Palestinian issue based on the “two-state solution.” However, the statement from Wang’s meeting with Israeli officials had a similar, albeit different, phase of a “political settlement of the Palestinian issue on the basis of the two-state solution.”

Wang stated China’s position to the Israeli officials in the meeting: a ceasefire should be implemented as a top priority, and ultimately, a two-state solution is the only means to solve the conflict. Furthermore, Wang also said that the ongoing war caused casualties and property damage on both sides without mentioning the October 7th attack. Israeli officials likely did not receive Wang’s remarks about the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip or the two-state solution well. For example, Israel did not mention the meeting on its Foreign Affairs website or on any of its social media accounts. Furthermore, China’s statement about the meeting also shows that Israel told the country about its “position” regarding the conflict, including a two-state solution.

The March 17th meeting between Wang, Haniyeh, and other Hamas officials in Qatar is another example of China’s approach. For example, Wang’s alleged comments that “Hamas is part of the Palestinian national fabric and China is eager to establish relations with it” signal that China considers Hamas an equal entity compared to Israel and the Palestinian authorities. By doing so, China is saying it is a country that can potentially assist in ending the conflict and creating a two-state solution.

The meeting also enabled China to show itself as a neutral party to the conflict compared to the United States, Europe, and other outside countries that support Israel to varying degrees. Furthermore, the meeting also illustrates how China is attempting to gain more influence in the region by meeting with Hamas officials in an official capacity, allowing the country to show the Global South it is willing to help countries in disputes against countries with western backers.

However, China sending Wang to meet with the various officials also illustrates its balancing approach since he is not the official envoy for the region. Wang occupies a fairly low position as an ambassador for the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s West Asia and North Africa Department. His position is significant to note since it shows how China will only provide a limited degree of legitimacy to Hamas while trying to maintain and repair its relationship with Israel. For example, China would have sent its envoy for the Middle East Issue, Zhai Jun, on the trip instead of Wang since his presence would give increased legitimacy to Hamas. If Israel and other countries were to criticize China for Wang’s meeting with Haniyeh, then it could simply remove him from his ambassador post while maintaining Zhai in his position.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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