On December 6, U.S. President Donald Trump formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced his plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the dispute-ridden city.
In a live broadcast to the world, Trump declared from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House: “Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. This is nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.”
Regarding Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang expressed worry over the “potential flare-up of regional tensions” at the regular press briefing on December 6. Without singling out the United States directly, Geng also warned “all parties” not to trigger new contradictions in the region.
Most importantly, Geng reiterated China’s support for East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. He said:
China firmly supports and advances the Middle East peace process. We support the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate national rights and stand behind Palestine in building an independent, full sovereignty state along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. We call on all parties to remain committed to resolving disputes through negotiations and promoting regional peace and stability in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions.
The “relevant UN resolutions” Geng mentioned mainly refers to the 2016 Resolution No. 2334, which demands that “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” As a permanent member state of the UN Security Council, China together with France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, voted for the resolution, while the United States abstained.
In April, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Malki in Beijing. During the meeting, Wang voiced China’s “support for the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, the two-state solution, the establishment of a fully independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and any other help that would ease the Palestine-Israel situation.”
He then called for the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel “as early as possible.”
In July, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited China and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. During the meeting, Xi put forward a new four-point proposal on the Palestine issue. Not only did Xi reaffirm China’s support for the two-state solution, but offered to provide financial support to Palestine, including “supporting Chinese companies to invest in Palestine and build industrial parks and solar power plants.”
So far, China has made clear its determination to play a more important role in the Middle East. Trump’s latest decision seemed to have provided China a good chance to realize this goal.