China and the Palestinian Authority signed a “strategic partnership” agreement in Beijing on June 14.
The signing took place during a four-day visit to China’s capital by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas was the “first Arab head of state received by China this year, embodying the high level of China-Palestine good relations, which have traditionally been friendly,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.
The invitation comes as Beijing attempts to position itself as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
During a meeting with Abbas, Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping offered to facilitate peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
And in December, Xi met with Abbas in Saudi Arabia, saying that Beijing would continue to work on an “early, just and durable solution to the Palestinian issue.”
The impetus for Abbas’s trip is also economic as he looks to shore up the struggling Palestinian economy. The P.A. had a $1.26 billion deficit in 2021.
The decision by Abbas to align the P.A. with China, which is in growing competition with the U.S., drew criticism.
“[It’s] a finger in the eye of the Biden administration,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank.
“This is a litmus test for the Biden White House, which has been an advocate for the Palestinian cause. There must be consequences for Mahmoud Abbas if the goal is to sustain the U.S.-led regional order,” Schanzer said.
Historically, Beijing has been friendly to the Palestinian side. It recognized the “State of Palestine” in 1988 and established full diplomatic relations at the end of 1989. Diplomatic relations with Israel were established only in 1992.
A survey conducted in May for Arab News by YouGov found that 80% of Palestinian respondents with a clear opinion on the topic expressed support for a Chinese role in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.