China Gears Up for Belt and Road Summit Amid Israel-Gaza Conflict

China Hosts Belt and Road Initiative Forum Amid Israel-Gaza Conflict

China is preparing to host representatives from 130 countries for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum, which will be overshadowed by the ongoing Israel-Gaza war. The forum, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the BRI, is seen by China as an opportunity to enhance its global influence. The invited guest list features Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is making his first visit to a major global power since the Ukraine invasion led to international isolation. While leaders arrive in Beijing for the gala event, the headlines continue to focus on Israel’s conflict with Palestinian militant organization Hamas.

China’s Stance on the Israel-Gaza Conflict

Israel declared war on Hamas after a series of attacks, resulting in the deaths of over 1,400 mostly civilian people. The Israeli bombardment of Gaza has caused widespread destruction and displaced more than one million people. China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi strongly condemned Israel’s actions for exceeding the scope of self-defense and urged them to cease the collective punishment of the people of Gaza. This marks China’s strongest stance on the conflict to date. However, Beijing has faced criticism from Western officials for not specifically naming Hamas in its statements regarding the Israel-Gaza conflict.

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In an effort to promote calm in the region, Wang Yi spoke with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who called on China to use its influence to mediate the situation. China has a close relationship with Iran, whose clerical leadership supports both Hamas and Hezbollah. Beijing had previously brokered peace talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia earlier this year. To further advance peace efforts, China’s special envoy Zhai Jun will be visiting the Middle East this week to push for a ceasefire and promote dialogue between the involved parties.

BRI Summit as a Statement of Support

The BRI summit provides Beijing with an opportunity to frame attendance as a gesture of support for its position on global issues. Nonresident fellow Niva Yau of the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub believes that any head of state attending the summit is seen as aligning with Beijing’s viewpoints. The strategic partnership between China and Russia continues to deepen, with President Putin acknowledging the relevance and significance of President Xi Jinping’s concepts and initiatives. Their alliance, built on shared interests and the need to counter Western dominance, plays a crucial role in shaping their foreign policies.

Russian top diplomat Sergei Lavrov also held talks with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his visit to Beijing. With heightened trade between China and Russia, the relationship between the two countries remains strong. As the BRI forum commences, leaders from around the world have begun to arrive in Beijing, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Chilean President Gabriel Boric, Kenyan President William Ruto, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

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China’s hosting of the Belt and Road Initiative forum signifies its determination to expand its global influence despite the overshadowing Israel-Gaza conflict. While the world watches the ongoing war, China seeks to showcase its position and gather support through this important gathering of world leaders.

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