China and Russia have recently adopted more rigid stances regarding the Gaza conflict, which has intensified as the war between Israel and Hamas exacerbates existing geopolitical tensions. This highlights the growing divide between these Cold War-era allies and Western powers like the US, UK, and France.
The Chinese Foreign Minister, over the weekend, criticized Israel’s bombing campaign as exceeding the scope of self-defense and called for an end to the collective punishment of Gaza’s people.
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin drew a historical parallel, suggesting that an intensified siege of Gaza by Israel could resemble the siege of Leningrad by German armies during World War II, a reference likely to provoke deep offense in Israel.
Russia’s top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, arrived in Beijing on Monday, leading to concerns in the West about the strengthening ties between these two powers.
Both China and Russia have historically supported the Palestinian cause, with the USSR doing so throughout the Cold War. In recent times, they have sought to balance their closer ties with Israel with broader diplomatic efforts to win allies in the Arab world.
Russia seeks support for its ongoing conflict in Ukraine, while China aims to build a broader coalition of developing nations to expand Beijing’s influence and compete with the US on the global stage.
China’s enduring support for the Palestinians can also be seen as an effort to offset concerns in the Islamic and Arab worlds about China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
The Middle East is a crucial source of China’s oil and a central hub in President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to connect global markets and extend Beijing’s influence.
Since the conflict began, Chinese state media has been critical of Israel and has blamed the US, Israel’s staunchest supporter, for escalating tensions in the region. There has also been an increase in anti-Semitic content on the heavily monitored Chinese internet.
Putin, on the other hand, acknowledged Israel’s right to defend itself but criticized its methods, warning against unacceptable civilian casualties in the event of an Israeli ground offensive.
Russian officials believe they can mediate because they have relations with Israel, the Palestinians, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and major Arab powers. They also seek to place blame on the US for the conflict.
India, another major player in the developing world, faces a complex diplomatic dilemma. It has developed economic ties with Israel but has also built relationships with key actors in the Arab world.
Reactions in Africa have been mixed, with the African Union issuing a carefully balanced statement. South Africa, however, has expressed harsh criticism of Israel, citing its historical ties to the apartheid regime.