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The China-Mediterranean Observer: Chinese Foreign Policy Tries to Keep Pace With Rapid Change in the Middle East

A member of an Israeli tech delegation uses his phone in a video call during an evening meeting with Emirati counterparts at a hotel in Dubai on October 25, 2020. Israel and the United Arab Emirates agreed on October 19 to visa-free travel, an unprecedented arrangement between Israel and an Arab state, signed after the first ever official UAE delegation landed in Tel Aviv. Karim SAHIB / AFP

Turkey, Iran, and Israel were the protagonists in Chinese commentaries on the wider Mediterranean region. As always, Chinese analysts remain rather pessimistic in their assessment of the situation as they look at the region characterized by a lack of unity among both Arabs and Europeans. Interestingly, the Global Times published an article written by Fan Hongda with insights into the discussion about how China’s approach to the region should evolve. As our readers should remember, Fan has written very interesting commentaries on Iran, with very straightforward statements regarding the problems plaguing Sino-Iranian relations. While it is difficult to say how much of his work represents the mainstream perspective, it is indeed noteworthy. We first review this month’s commentaries on Israel, Iran, and Turkey, and then we look at Fan’s piece.

Arab-Israeli Relations

The normalization of the diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel was the main topic of discussion, especially after the Israel–Sudan normalization agreement took place on October 23, 2020. In general, it is evident that the Chinese community of Middle East observers is united through seeing what is happening in negative terms. On the one hand, they see the normalization process as a tool deployed by the United States to further pressure Iran. On the other hand, the temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas will not bring any solution to the problem of the Palestinians. As Shu Meng, a scholar at the Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), wrote, the “sacrifice of Palestine will not bring peace in the Middle East.” While Hamas needs to continue fighting Israel if it wants to remain influential, Israel has not shelved its plans to annex the West Bank. Hence, according to Shu, only the two-state solution can be the foundation for any long-lasting peace agreement.

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