China's Diplomacy in the Israel-Hamas War and Red Sea Crisis

A conversation between Bonnie Glaser and Ahmed Aboudouh discussing China's approach to diplomacy in the Middle East with a focus on the Israel-Hamas conflict and the Red Sea crisis.
March 19, 2024

On a previous episode of the China Global Podcast, we discussed Beijing’s position on the conflict in Gaza during the early days following Hamas’ attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023. Today, we discuss one of the conflict’s spillover effects– the attacks on cargo and trade ships transiting the Red Sea by the Houthis, an Iranian-backed Shia group governing parts of Yemen. While the Chinese-brokered rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran was as the beginning of a “wave of reconciliation” in the region by China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, the resurgence of violence since October 7th has proven that prediction to be overly optimistic.

At face value, disruptions of global trade may seem to run counter to Chinese interests, but Beijing’s hesitance to become more deeply involved in the crisis may tell us something about China’s calculations in this crisis. It may also show the limits of Chinese influence in the region.

Host Bonnie Glaser is joined by Ahmed Aboudouh. Ahmed is an associate fellow with the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House, a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council, and heads the China Studies research unit at the Emirates Policy Center. His research focuses on China’s rising influence in the Middle East and North Africa region, Gulf geopolitics, and the effects of China-US competition worldwide.

Episode Highlights:

[01:36] China’s Statement on Palestine at the International Court of Justice

[08:20] Why is China indirectly supporting Hamas despite its relations with Israel?

[12:11] Effectiveness of China’s Narrative Critical of America and the West

[16:54] Israel, Palestine, and China’s Diplomatic Calculus

[20:12] China’s Hesitance to Counter the Houthis in the Red Sea

[25:15] Does China have leverage over Iran, and if so, will they use it?

[29:59] Circumstances for Deeper Chinese Involvement