Official Chinese statements related to the conflict did not specifically mention Hamas in their condemnation of violence, which has led to criticism from some Western officials.
China seeks to play a mediation role to de-escalate tensions between Israel and the Palestinians and prepare for an international conference to restart peace negotiations.
There are hopes for its mediation to be accepted due to its “balanced stance on both sides,” according to the Chinese government, although its position does not sit well with a disgruntled Tel Aviv, unhappy with Beijing’s failure to condemn Hamas.
On Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that Israel‘s actions in Gaza after Hamas‘s attack “go beyond self-defense boundaries,” and the Israeli government should cease “collective punishment” of Gaza‘s residents. This represents China’s strongest stance since the conflict began.
A statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry on Sunday mentioned that Wang told his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan, on Saturday that what “Israel is doing goes beyond self-defense,” and its leaders should heed “the calls of the international community and the UN Secretary-General” Antonio Guterres. He emphasized that “the parties should not take any action that could lead to an escalation” and called for the initiation of “negotiations.”
Israel issued orders for more than a million people in the northern part of the strip to evacuate before an expected ground attack, in a mass displacement that relief organizations say will cause a humanitarian catastrophe.
The enclave, home to 2.3 million people, has been under land, sea, and air blockade since 2006. More than 1,300 people were killed following the attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, and at least 120 people were taken hostage, according to Israeli officials. The Israeli response led to the deaths of over 2,300 people, including more than 700 children, in Gaza.
Yi said in a separate phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday that Washington must “play a constructive and responsible role” in the conflict and called for an “international peace conference as soon as possible” in an attempt to achieve a ceasefire and initiate peace talks.
Official Chinese statements related to the conflict did not specifically mention Hamas in their condemnation of violence, which has sparked criticism from some Western officials who say China’s condemnation is too weak.
Earlier on Sunday, the official Chinese television station “CCTV” announced that China’s special envoy to the Middle East, Chai Jun, will visit the region next week in an attempt to achieve a ceasefire and initiate peace talks.
The station explained in a video posted on its official social media account on Sunday that Chai “will visit the Middle East next week to coordinate with different parties to achieve a ceasefire, protect civilians, alleviate the situation, and push for peace talks.”
Chai had already spoken with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials in the past few days.
Hamas launched thousands of rockets towards Israel while hundreds of its fighters breached the border defenses in an unprecedented attack over the past weekend, resulting in more than 1,300 casualties.
In contrast, official Chinese television reports extensively focused on the Israeli aerial attacks on Gaza and the human losses among the Palestinians. Beijing limited itself to calling on all parties to exercise restraint.