China and Palestine have a long history of friendly relations, particularly due to China's support of Third World national liberation movements in the past. China had been a strong champion of Third World causes until the 1970s. After the end of the Cold War the relationship between China and Palestine has continued to the present day. Today, China strongly supports the Middle East peace process and it also supports lasting peace between both the Palestinians and the Israelis.
China's involvement with Palestine dates back to the Roman Empire. China used the Silk Routes to trade with the Romans for valuable goods such as glass. Since then, China has forged strong relations with the Muslim and Islamic states which developed in the region.
After the Chinese Revolution of 1911, Sun Yat-sen and his Kuomintang party came to power. Sun Yat-sen called for the national liberation of all colonial peoples under foreign occupation. But during the 1920s and 1930s China was in chaos and was controlled by rival warlords so it had almost no impact in the Middle East. Also during this time the Kuomintang and the Communists began fighting in the Chinese Civil War.
After the victory of the Chinese Communist Party in the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the People's Republic of China was proclaimed under Mao Zedong. China had at first recognized the Jewish State of Israel. But after Israel became mostly a pro-Western and American ally China began to support the Arabs and the cause of the Palestinians. After the Sino-Soviet split during the 1960s China began to support the cause of the Palestinians more than ever.
During the 1960s China had strongly supported the destruction of Israel and its replacement with a Palestinian Arab State. China had strongly supported Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). China had also established close relations with the Fatah party as well. The Chinese government under Mao Zedong had supported Palestinian militant groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) as well as the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). After China was admitted to the United Nations as a member in 1971, China continued to support the Palestinian cause more than ever before. An embassy of the PLO was opened in Beijing during the summer of 1974.
China had strongly supported UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 which had equated Zionism with racism in 1975.(the resolution, however, was later revoked with Resolution 4686 in 1991, but this time China was absent during the voting)
After the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 a new leadership came to power in China and it was determined to end its hostilities with America and the West. When Deng Xiaoping came to power in 1978 he began to embark on his program of the Four Modernizations. He also began to reduce Chinese support for Palestinian militant groups and he emphasized the need for dialogue. Under Deng China cut off support for Palestinian militant groups and it supported the Camp David Accords in 1978. China also began to call for a two state solution and for a lasting peace in the Middle East. Also during this time China began to cut off support for Third World and other leftist guerrilla movements.
However, China still supported the rights of the Palestinians and it strongly supported the November 15, 1988, Palestinian Declaration of Independence by Yasser Arafat in Algiers, Algeria despite the objections by both Israel and the United States. China recognised the new State of Palestine on 20 November 1988 and had established full diplomatic relations with it by the end of 1989. But nevertheless China continued to increase its relations with Israel and it established full diplomatic relations with the Jewish State in 1992.
Because China had begun to change its polices towards the Middle East during the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, the Palestinian Liberation Organization lost one of its important supporters. That is why the PLO began peace talks with Israel. Also China was angered by the PLO's support of Iraq during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. These things coupled with the growing Islamist trend in Palestinian society and militancy weakened the pro-Chinese Palestinian militant groups most of whom took on a Marxist-Maoist line.
China has continued to support the Palestinian cause albeit in a more limited fashion as of now. Under Deng's successors, China has continued its relations with both Israel and the Arab States. Under Presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao China has been balanced and moderate in its dealings with both Israel and the Palestinians and it favors peace between both sides. China has supported the Middle East peace process and the Oslo agreements. Both Yasser Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas have visited China on several occasions and have met with Chinese leaders. Also, China was one of the countries that voted in 1998 to give Palestine more rights at the UN despite the opposition by both Israel and the United States.
Present day relations as of 2006 continue to remain strong. After the victory of Hamas, a Palestinian militant group that favors the restoration of historical Palestine in the 2006 Palestinian elections, China refused to call the group a terrorist organization and called them elected representatives of the Palestinian People. This statement was clarified by the Chinese foreign Ministry in January 2006. China invited the Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar to attend the China-Arab Cooperation Forum in June 2006 ignoring protests by both the United States and Israel but received praise from Abu Mazen. China continued to follow its own polices with regards to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and it calls for peace between both sides. After the 2008-2009 Gaza War, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang urged both parties to solve disputes through dialogue and denounces the use of military force in solving conflicts. After the May 31, 2010 Gaza flotilla raid the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu strongly condemned Israel and urged Israel to seriously implement the UN Security Council resolutions and to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip by lifting the blockade. On April 28, 2011 after the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas signed a deal to form a national unity government ahead of the national elections, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that China welcomes Palestine's internal reconciliation and hoped that it would enhance unity and cooperation among all the parties in Palestine. During the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip, a spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China told reporters in a news conference that China expressed "concern" to the clashes and urge all sides, particularly Israel, to display restraint and avoid civilian casualties. On November 29, 2012, China voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 67/19 Palestine to non-member observer state status in the United Nations. During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei (politician) on 9 July 2014 in response to the violence said: "We believe that to resort to force and to counter violence with violence will not help resolve problems other than pile up more hatred. We urge relevant parties to bear in mind the broader picture of peace and the lives of the people, immediately realize a ceasefire, stick to the strategic choice of peace talks and strive for an early resumption of talks."
- United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 (November 10, 1975)
- China's Palestine Policy
- UN Security Council calls for immediate halt to Gaza violence
- Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman
- Chinese Foreign Ministry Briefing
- "外交部:中方严重关切以色列对加沙发动军事行动". China Daily. China. 16 November 2012. Retrieved 16 November 2012.
- UN General Assembly Resolution 67/19
- Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei's Regular Press Conference on July 9, 2014