by Mohammed al-Sudairi
MERIP | January 28, 2016
For those accustomed to the themes of Sino-Arab diplomacy, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on January 21 was predictable enough. It might not have attracted much attention at all if not for Xi’s statement that “China firmly supports the Middle East peace process and supports the establishment of a State of Palestine enjoying full sovereignty on the basis of the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
This unequivocal position on East Jerusalem—at odds with the Israeli government’s insistence that Jerusalem is the “eternal and undivided” capital of Israel and with the US willingness to put Jerusalem’s status up for negotiation—was accorded considerable coverage in the Israeli press. In Arab social media, meanwhile, President Xi’s words met with some surprise as they appeared to indicate a shift in China’s position toward avid support for Palestine. Few noted, however, that the Chinese stance on this issue had already been spelled out in the “Arab white paper” issued on January 13, a week before Xi left on the tour of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran during which he gave his speech.