EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: On December 23, 2017, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi observed that “it’s been seventy years since the UN adopted the decision to create a Palestinian state, but seventy years later, a Palestinian state is yet to be created.” Other Chinese voices in recent years have made similar statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Why the Chinese preoccupation with this issue? Perhaps because words and gestures allow Beijing to show involvement while avoiding intervention.
On December 23, 2017, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi noted in an interview on China’s main TV channel (CCTV) that “it’s been seventy years since the UN adopted the decision to create a Palestinian state, but seventy years later, a Palestinian state is yet to be created.” His statement was delivered at an Israeli-Palestinian peace symposium that took place in Beijing on December 21-22, and it took its place among similar recent Chinese statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Relations between Beijing and the Palestinians began in the 1960s and 1970s and consisted primarily of material and conceptual support given by the Chinese government, headed by Mao Zedong, to the PLO. China was also the first non-Arab state to form diplomatic relations with the PLO, which it did in 1965. After Mao’s death and the subsequent drastic change in Chinese public policy led by successor Deng Xiaoping, which included a shift from dealing with politics to attempts to reeducate the Chinese people to build a strong economy, Chinese support for the Palestinian issue was reduced. In parallel, Israel’s importance to China rose for economic reasons, with a particular eye to Israeli innovation and its potential to assist China’s growth.