The melting of Ice between Iran and Saudi Arabi has enthusiastically drawn China’s aspirations to enhance its role as a peace mediator in the region. Beijing’s successive launch of the peace-making plans from February to April shows its struggle for the global good.
China offered a 12-point peace plan for Russo-Ukraine Conflict in February, followed by a successful détente between Iran and Saudi Arabia in mid-March.
Extending the Global Security Initiative, the concept paper of which has been published earlier this year, China has ambitiously taken charge to bring peace to the historic Palestine-Israel conflict. Beijing offered mediation to solve the conflict after stressing restraint during the clashes that erupted in al-Aqsa between Palestinians and IDF. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang held separate phone calls with the counterparts from Israel and Palestine, offering lasting peace in the region.
Ostensibly, China has no rivalry or tension with Israel. The relations between Israel and them has begun after the Middle East Peace Conference and the Gulf War in 1991. On the part of Palestine, Beijing held a strong stance on the two-state solution. Chinese aspirations of bridging the gap between two ancient civilizations are not nascent, yet a repackaging of a two-decades-long peace mediation plan. Beijing for the first time proposed a 5 points peace plan in 2003, a draft provided by the first-ever Chinese Special Envoy to the Middle East. Although with the same content but President Xi had also proposed its Four-Point Peace Plan in 2013, a year after he took office. Diplomacy had also managed to bring the two on the table for a symposium in 2017 after President Xi Jinping in his personal capacity proposed to resume talks. The delegates of both countries took part in the discussion, finding little success in endorsing Beijing’s key role in promoting peace talks.
Why is China extending its role to bring peace between the historic rivals such as Israel and Palestine and to what extent Beijing would become successful? are the questions, answers to which can be found below.
Chinese call for mediation to resolve a frozen conflict came from its enthusiasm after the successful détente signed between KSA and Iran. China has placed its foothold where America was influential for the last 30 years. In recent times, Beijing’s ambitions have out-classed Washington’s strategy to hold influence on the oil exporting countries. And the successful thaw in Iran-Saudi Arabia between Israel and Palestine will enhance its credibility in the region. Earlier, America mediated between the rivals reaching a consensus at least once in the form of the Oslo Accord. Latter, American President Donald Trump also proposed the Middle East Peace Plan. Unfortunately, the plan couldn’t bring a wave of lasting peace to the region.
If China succeeds in its ambitions to bring normalization between Israel and Palestine, it will manage to do what the US couldn’t for years.
China has been ascending to global power status through its initiatives for public goods, presenting itself as a responsible world power. The successive global initiatives for Security and Civilization show their aspirations to bring global peace. The ‘Indivisible Security’ concept from the Global Security Initiative (GSI) which reinforces the security and just environment not at the expense of other countries, is backing up the lasting peace and reducing geopolitical security dilemmas between the arch-rivals such as KSA-Iran and Israel Palestine. Similarly, Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) proposes a people-to-people connection between the International civilizations respecting each other’s values and diversity. So, the expected re-engagements between the historic rivals and the regional foes are enhancing the scope of these initiatives for the Public good.
Middle East is also a part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project. So, any attempt to bring peace to the region will sturdy China’s investment in the region. When America decided to bring Abraham Accord into the region, normalizing the ties between Arabs and Israel it bypassed the Palestinian people. Although UAE and Bahrain had normalized their ties with Israel, the plan is dormant since then.
The normalization of ties between Arabs can only go through the solution proposed under the UNSC resolutions and China has espoused the right direction to bring stability in the region by bringing peace between Israel and Palestine.
This will enhance China’s investment in the region, building an incentivized partnership with GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Although China has reinstated the offers for peace mediation for Israel-Palestinian Conflict, the success of its ambitions is still uncertain. It is not that easy for Israel to bring peace to Palestine with Chinese mediation. Israel is the key ally and trade partner of the United States of America. The mighty iron dome technology of Israel has been supplemented by Washington. Going in peace with Palestine will give an impetus to diminishing the US role in the region. Similarly, If the mediation occurs with China in the middle, Israel will have to negotiate on equitable terms with Palestine which is not suitable for them. And last but not least, Israel would never minimize its position on the issue. Doing everything in which Palestine would get benefit or accepting Jerusalem as an International city will represent Israel stepping back and minimizing its position. So, no political leader whether it is Netanyahu or Beny Gentz will do a political suicide as the right winger in Tel Aviv is still holding their foot.
While on the other, China can use the economic leverage to convince Israel of the resumption of talks with Palestine. Both countries are advancing for the Free Trade Agreement and are expected to sign in 2023. In addition to it, China has also taken over Israel’s infrastructure Industry. China has invested US$ 19 billion in Israel from the year 2000 to 2020. Moreover, China is also importing arms and defense technology from Israel.
Despite that Beijing’s clout in the middle has been growing significantly, but it seems uncertain that it will harness a major diplomatic thaw in the region. Israel and China are interdependent in some respects yet, there seems to be little influence of China over Israel to bring them to the table. As Compared to Beijing’s US$ 19 billion, the US has invested US$ 150 billion, and “China is not an ally of Israel. The United States is” as said by Dr. Calabrese quoted by Mathew Jaber Stiffler, Director of the Centre for Arab Narratives (CAN).
China has an enthusiastic character to rise as a global power and a responsible actor in the Middle East.
But what China is expecting is not so easy to get. Beijing wanted to enhance its role as it requires to protect its investment under BRI and for this, it has been transcending for global peace and public good.
The Writer is a columnist and is associated with the China program Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) Islamabad. He can be reached at Usmanalee124@gamil.com . He tweets @Usman_Zulfiqar_