China’s Game in Gaza: How Beijing Is Exploiting Israel’s War to Win Over the Global South

Foreign Affairs so, yes, it has a bias. Author Mark Leonard

Still there are some points of interest. One obvious point made is the lamentable state of US diplomacy. Perhaps better acknowledged as non existent.

While the United States discredits itself with the countries of the global South through its seemingly unqualified support for Israel, Beijing has carefully calibrated its response to the war, paying close attention to public opinion in the developing world.

Six months ago, I warned in Foreign Affairs that while the West is seeking to preserve the existing rules-based international order by tweaking some of its elements and inviting in a few additional actors, Chinese strategists are increasingly focused on surviving in a world without order. And they are offering to help other countries build their own sovereignty and freedom of maneuver as Western dominance recedes.

The Biden administration has tried to reconcile public support for Israel with private pressure to more carefully target its attacks in Gaza and to be more open to a political settlement with the Palestinians. Beijing, on the other hand, has been much less constrained by the need for balance. By calling for a two-state solution, refusing to condemn Hamas, and making symbolic efforts to support a cease-fire, it has taken advantage of global anti-Israeli sentiment in a bid to elevate its own standing in the global South

By aligning with majority opinion in such countries as Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa, China can present itself as an alternative to what it sees as a warmongering, hegemonic, and hypocritical America.

And China’s anti-Israeli rhetoric extends to its diplomatic outreach. On November 20, a group of Arab foreign ministers embarked on a tour to the countries that are permanent members of the UN Security Council. Their first stop was in Beijing, where they were welcomed by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The choice to travel east before their meetings in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States was surely intentional. It can be read as evidence of China’s increasing cachet in the Middle East since negotiating a détente between Iran and Saudi Arabia last March.


Since the start of Israel’s campaign in Gaza, which the Biden administration has largely endorsed, distrust of the United States has deepened across the Arab world. Opinion polls show that Arab publics now favor China over the United States. This is part of a long-term trend, but one that is being exacerbated by the war in Gaza.

Polling conducted in the fall of 2023 in eight major non-Western countries—Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa—by the European Council on Foreign Relations (which I direct) found that China, in contrast to Western powers, is much more closely aligned with public opinion in the global South. Whether it is believing in the likelihood of Russia winning its war with Ukraine, the likelihood that the EU might fall apart, or the fragile state of American democracy, China’s official positions take great care to reflect the sentiments of the average Brazilian or Turk.

Finally, China is not trying to unite these countries in a Chinese-led anti-Western alliance, as many in Washington seem to believe. Whereas the United States talks about how other countries should align with its positions and follow global rules, China presents itself as a champion of a “multicivilizational world” and a partner for development and sovereignty. Indeed, Beijing’s selling point is precisely that in a world of fragmentation, it is not forcing other countries to choose sides.

Here again, China is very much in line with global public opinion. According to a European Council on Foreign Relations poll of major non-Western countries conducted in December 2022 and January 2023, substantial majorities across the world do not think that their countries will ever have to choose between China and the United States

For example, only 14 percent of Indians expect a bipolar world in ten years in which they might be forced to choose between Chinese- and U.S.-dominated blocs. So even though the United States demands ever-closer alignment from those countries caught in between, China’s perceived nonalignment has allowed it to become the favored partner for infrastructure investment and economic development in many parts of the world.

Much more to read at the opening link

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