Following is a guest entry by Beijing-based journalist Mu Chunshan on China’s Middle East policy.
At the start of September, as the leaders of the Palestinian Territories, Israel, Egypt and Jordan were arriving in Washington for talks with US President Barack Obama, officials in China had just seen off North Korean leader Kim Jong-il after his second trip to China in less than a year.
On the surface, the two sets of talks might appear to be two very different diplomatic matters. But in China, both incidents were treated in much the same way—with an effective media blackout.
For Kim’s visit, the media blackout was mandatory, with Chinese officials only confirming his visit after he had already left the country. But the absence of coverage on the Middle East peace talks was self-imposed. Why? Because the Chinese public just wasn’t very interested.
China has always prided itself on a ‘more work, less talk’ approach to its ‘quiet’ diplomacy, placing economic considerations above political ones. And this has been no more evident than with its approach to the Middle East.