The third time was the charm. After two canceled trips, one in April due to Covid and another in July Due to the troubled waters at home, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, finally began a three-day official visit to China this Thursday.
The first stop was in the financial capital, Shanghai, where Borrell met with Chinese businessmen and academics. His trip will continue in Beijing to meet with the Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. This visit will serve to lay the foundations for the China-EU leaders’ summit scheduled for the end of the year. But on the table are also the latest bilateral attempts to redirect trade tensions and other relevant international issues: the war between Israel and Hamas, the conflict in Ukraine and the pressure of the Chinese army on Taiwan.
Brussels quickly condemned last weekend’s unexpected attack by the fundamentalist group Hamas, although Borrell himself later criticized Israel’s response to the siege of Gaza for “going against international humanitarian law.” Beijing, for its part, ruled in a statement calling for an immediate ceasefirebut stopped short of condemning the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians.
As happened after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Government of Xi Jinping, which has always publicly supported the Palestinian cause, even defending at the UN that the solution to the conflict involves the creation of a sovereign Palestinian State, is emerging as a “neutral” actor in the war that has broken out in a region where Beijing has time trying to extend its influence. In addition to its visible sympathy towards Palestine, China also maintains very good relations with Israel.
The Asian giant wants to be seen as a great peace broker and has already begun to move its chips. As Chinese officials confirm to this newspaper, before the arrival of Borrell, China’s special envoy for Middle East affairs, Zhai Junhas held telephone conversations with both senior Israeli officials and those of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), whose government Beijing recognizes.