The Platform

Chinese President Xi Jinping.

China’s vision for the new world order is very China-centric.

The visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Beijing affirmed the mutual positions of the two sides on their respective domestic issues. China openly supports the establishment of a formal Palestinian state and has advocated for Ramallah’s full membership in the United Nations.

Abbas, in turn, expressed his support for the Chinese government on the issue of Uyghur Muslims, considering it a Chinese internal matter. Abbas also endorsed China’s efforts to reunify Hong Kong and Taiwan, agreeing with Beijing’s long-held position that they are Chinese territories.

China surprised the international community by successfully mediating a reconciliation agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Over the past decade, relations between the two countries had become increasingly tense due to geopolitical contestation, and the reconciliation agreement came as a shock to even experts on the Middle East.

China is also involved in peace efforts between Ukraine and Russia. China proposed a 12-point peace plan, which includes important elements such as respecting the sovereignty of the two countries and moving away from the Cold War mentality to promote post-conflict reconstruction. However, for Ukraine, the proposal is a non-starter unless Russia fully withdraws from Ukraine which Russian President Vladimir Putin seems dead set against.

China’s mediation efforts are closely tied to its long-term economic interests. Stability is crucial for the smooth implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s mediation efforts are not solely driven by economic factors. In 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced the Global Security Initiative (GSI) during a conference on Hainan Island. The GSI aims to establish a Chinese led-world order.

Camille Lons, a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), states that China has shifted its strategy in addressing regional issues. Previously, China positioned itself to limit involvement in regional conflicts and resolution efforts. However, its mediation efforts in the Middle East have marked a change.

China’s diplomatic push with Saudi Arabia and Iran is also an effort to prevent the two countries from raising China’s repressive policies against Uyghur Muslims as a topic of discussion. Similarly, China’s support for Palestinian independence stems from the same goal.

Previously, China’s focus was on building international institutions centered around economic cooperation, avoiding involvement in conflict resolution. This approach has been evident in China’s initiatives within international organizations and forums.

China has successfully coordinated its interests through multilateral institutions, leading to changes in global norms. Examples of this include the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in 2001, BRICS in 2001, the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in 2016. China has also actively initiated regional communication and cooperation forums such as the China-Africa Peace and Security Forum, the Middle East Security Forum, the Beijing Xiangshan Forum, and the Global Public Security Cooperation Forum.

China’s foreign policy direction is easily understood by examining its historical changes. During Mao Zedong’s reign, China’s foreign policy principles underwent significant transformations. In the era of Deng Xiaoping, China positioned itself with the narrative of a “peaceful awakening,” asserting that its rise posed no threat to the world. This principle persisted until Hu Jintao’s presidency.

However, as China’s military and economic power grew, the country’s character underwent a change. As John Mearsheimer has noted, a country’s character can transform when its economy strengthens and challenges the established powers. China’s rise cannot be equated with the context of the Cold War. Kurt Campbell and Jake Sullivan argue that China today is a more formidable peer competitor than the Soviet Union was, economically, diplomatically, and ideologically.

On the other hand, China’s efforts to become a peacemaker in various conflicts contrast with its aggressive stance in the South China Sea. China continues to assert its territorial claims in the region by constructing military bases and conducting patrols with warships. China appears determined to make the South China Sea its sphere of influence, promoting its socialist ideology and advocating for cooperation with the world.

China’s involvement in conflicts follows an intriguing pattern. It tends to engage in conflicts that provide maneuvering space, enabling it to play a significant and strategic role. Ultimately, any achieved peace must align with China’s national interests.

Gufron Gozali is a junior research assistant from the Islamic University of Indonesia, whose research focuses on the United States and the Middle East.