China's strategy

Wu’s Wayward Wisdom and China’s Dangerous Embrace of Hamas

In his interview, Wu declared, "The US uses barbarians to subdue barbarians to control the Middle East," while China, of course, "pushes for peace."

Heath Sloane
Heath Sloane

In the latest instalment of China’s foreign policy farce, Ambassador Wu Sike, a seasoned Chinese diplomat and scholar, graces us with his musings on the Israel-Hamas war in an interview for Xinhua News Agency’s biweekly Globe magazine. Wu, with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, tries to paint China as a peace-loving mediator in the region, while the United States, in his view, is the perennial villain. But scratch the surface, and the true intent of China’s strategy reveals itself: to undermine liberal democracies, like Israel, by cosying up to terrorist organizations like Hamas, and terrorist states like Iran.

The translation of Wu’s remarks, provided by MENA-China researcher Tuvia Gering, reveals a masterclass in diplomatic naiveté. He calls for an “unconditional and immediate ceasefire” in Gaza without so much as a nod to the 120 Israeli hostages still suffering in Hamas captivity. He conveniently omits any mention of Iran’s role in arming, funding, and training Hamas, as well as other terrorist groups attacking Israel.

In his interview, Wu declared, “The US uses barbarians to subdue barbarians to control the Middle East,” while China, of course, “pushes for peace.” This line is more than a simplistic dichotomy; it’s a strategic move to delegitimise the US while painting China in a saintly light. Wu’s selective blindness to Hamas’s terrorism is nothing new. In 2012, while serving as China’s special envoy, he wrote for the Party mouthpiece, People’s Daily, extolling Hamas as a “major Palestinian political force” necessary for peace talks.

He even suggested that Israel should approach Hamas with a “positive and open mind,” as if the recognition of Israel’s right to exist and the renunciation of violence were negotiable items on a peace talk checklist rather than fundamental prerequisites for any meaningful dialogue.

According to Wu, China champions “multilateralism,” endorsing the UN and the Security Council as pivotal in conflict resolution. The irony here is palpable. This is the same China that has been arming and funding Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, bullying the Philippines in its own exclusive economic zone, and systematically eroding the freedoms of its own people.

Wu’s rhetoric about the establishment of a Palestinian state as the “basic solution to solve all the problems in the Middle East” is equally hollow. He fails to address the fundamental issue of ensuring that a newly established Palestinian state would not become a jihadist launchpad for Hamas terrorists or a corrupt base for the Palestinian Authority’s incompetence. It’s almost impressive how he manages to dodge the real issues affecting the region with such flair.

This narrative conveniently omits any mention of Iran, which is arming, funding, and training Hamas and other terrorist forces attacking Israel. Iran is only mentioned in the context of the “wave of reconciliation” that began in the China-brokered détente between Tehran and Riyadh in March 2023, which Wu described as “a source of great pleasure.” What about Iran-backed Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel’s internationally recognized sovereign territory since October 8th, purportedly “in solidarity” with the Palestinians, and the looming prospect of a full-fledged war in Lebanon and the region? Perhaps this is not a “trend affecting the Middle East” worth mentioning.

By hosting Hamas in Beijing in April this year, and treating them as legitimate political actors, China is shoring-up its Axis of Evil alongside Russia and Iran. This strategic alliance is not merely about Middle Eastern geopolitics; it’s a direct challenge to the liberal democratic order. Back in 2014, during the Gaza War, Wu Sike became the first Chinese official to openly meet with senior Hamas officials in Qatar. This meeting took place after Hamas abducted and brutally murdered three Israeli teenagers and launched rockets at Israeli cities. During this meeting, Wu expressed that China “sympathizes with the humanitarian suffering of the Palestinian people.”

Wu’s sympathies, however, seemed to evaporate after the October 7 massacre, the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust. One week after this atrocity, Wu had the temerity to ask, “Do we have to wait for Israel to completely vent before we can start talking about peace?” He further stated, “I think the US Biden administration’s reaction is first and foremost focused on the upcoming elections, where the Jewish bloc’s influence is clear to all.”

Wu’s remarks are not just the ramblings of an out-of-touch diplomat; they are a window into the CCP’s broader strategy. China’s support for Hamas is part of a calculated effort to undermine Israel, a democratic ally of the United States, and to destabilize the region. This strategy is not about promoting peace; it is about shifting the balance of power in favour of authoritarian regimes.

The United States and its allies must recognize this threat for what it is. The alliance of China, Russia, and Iran represents a concerted effort to undermine the principles of liberal democracy. By supporting terrorist organizations like Hamas, China is not only threatening the security of Israel but also the stability of the broader international order.

To counter this threat, the liberal democratic world must stand united. The United States, EU member states, Taiwan, and other democratic nations must strengthen their alliances and support each other in the face of authoritarian aggression. This means not only condemning China’s support for Hamas but also taking proactive steps to support Israel and other democratic nations in the region.

Israel, for its part, must adopt a firmer stance against China’s duplicitous policies. This includes openly rejecting any purported peace initiatives from Beijing that seek to portray China as a neutral, responsible major power while it continues to support terrorist activities. Instead, Israel should highlight China’s hypocrisy and its true role as a biased and opportunistic actor.

In addition, democratic nations should seek to diversify their economic and strategic partnerships to reduce dependence on China. This includes enhancing cooperation with nations like Taiwan, which share liberal democratic values and face an existential threat from their authoritarian neighbour.

Wu Sike’s naive and dangerous policy recommendations are a stark reminder of the true nature of China’s foreign policy. It is not about peace; it is about power. And the liberal democratic world must be prepared to confront this challenge head-on, standing firm in defense of our values and our way of life.

Heath Sloane is and Krauthammer Fellow and graduate of Peking University’s Yenching Academy.

read more: