China’s Mideast peacemaker drive signals ‘major’ post-war ambitions in the region: analysts

by Dewey Sim at

A meeting in Beijing last week between the two rival Palestinian factions for talks on ending internal division is being viewed by analysts as part of a wider strategy by China to map out a larger role in the Middle East.

Diplomatic observers see the talks between Hamas and Fatah as part of China’s continued push to play peacemaker in the region while challenging the Western-led international order.

And if successful, Beijing could play a “major” post-war role in the region, they said.


China’s foreign ministry on Tuesday confirmed that representatives from the two groups had held “in-depth and candid” meetings to “promote Palestinian reconciliation”, adding that the talks yielded “encouraging progress”.

“They agreed to continue this dialogue process so as to achieve Palestinian solidarity and unity soon,” ministry spokesman Lin Jian said.

Lin said the meeting came at the invitation of the Chinese government.

Fatah runs the Palestinian Authority, the Western-backed government body that partially controls the Israel-occupied West Bank.

Hamas, which overturned the Palestinian Authority’s rule in Gaza in 2007, controls the Gaza Strip.


The talks came as the conflict in the Middle East stretches into its seventh month, with little sign of easing as Israel pushes for a ground operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

China had earlier said it was willing to mediate the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, since the war erupted last year, it has not condemned Hamas for its October 7 attack on Israel, despite pressure from the West.
Jean-Loup Samaan, a senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute, said it was too early to determine if the Hamas-Fatah talks could elevate China’s role as a peacemaker in the Middle East, a position that Beijing has sought to fill.

“But it shows that Beijing is trying to follow a pattern that is somewhat similar to the one that led to the Saudi-Iran deal it brokered last year,” he said.

“This is a modest step but one that tells us China is not without ambitions in the Middle East.”

Last year, China scored an unexpected diplomatic victory when it brokered a deal between Gulf rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, with indications that it planned to play a bigger role as a mediator in the Middle East.

Following the deal, then foreign minister Qin Gang made separate phone calls to his Israeli and Palestinian counterparts to say China was ready to facilitate peace talks.

David Arase, resident professor of international politics with the Hopkins-Nanjing Centre, said that by hosting last week’s talks, China “wants to get into the limelight”.

“China wants to … affect the outcome of current moves by the US and its Arab allies to force Israel toward a ceasefire agreement and concrete plans for Gaza’s rehabilitation and governance thereafter,” he said.