Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday said China had fulfilled a request he made to President Xi Jinping asking to show greater sympathy for the Israeli people after Hamas launched a widespread attack over the weekend.
“I raised with President Xi the unfolding atrocities carried out against Israel and the need for the world community to stand together against terrorism and with the Israeli people, and pointedly requested from President Xi that the Chinese Foreign Minister strengthen their statement; they did,” Schumer said in a statement.
On Sunday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had said that the country was “deeply concerned” over the violence between Palestinians and Israel, urging calm and calling for a two-state solution. Schumer, in his meeting with Xi the next day, said he was “disappointed” with that response — and China appeared to get the message.
During a news conference later on Monday, the ministry went a little further after reporters asked a flurry of questions, several referencing the New York senator, about China’s position on the erupting violence.
“We’re deeply saddened by the civilian casualties and oppose and condemn acts that harm civilians,” said spokesperson Mao Ning, who also expressed that China’s position remained consistent. “We oppose moves that escalate the conflict and destabilize the region and hope fighting will stop and peace will return soon.”
Schumer was accompanied on his weekend trip to China by five other U.S. senators, and the delegation follows several high-profile American politicians’ visits to the country amid troubled relations. It is the first visit of American lawmakers to China since 2019.
The senators’ meeting with Xi and other politicians from the top echelon of China’s ruling political class represents the summit of their trip, which was overtly planned as a way for U.S. leaders to raise concerns about China’s treatment of American businesses, as well as its role in the fentanyl crisis. The senators also plan to visit South Korea and Japan, whose leadersrecently signed a trilateral compact with the U.S. in a clear response to China’s influence in the Pacific.
But the erupting violence in the Middle East came unexpectedly while the senators were abroad, and the spiraling violence has the potential to add further complexity between the two countries’ relations that have been battling for influence on the world stage. China in recent years has sought to become a bigger diplomatic player in the region, and it maintains close ties to several key players — notably Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“A bunch of us made the request that China use its influence in Iran to not allow the conflagration to spread,” Schumer said at a news conference later on Monday in Beijing, while also noting that China had “rectified” his ask around Israel.
Schumer said the senators also warned Chinese leaders about holding close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
China maintains official relations with Israel and has deep ties with the Palestinians. It has refrained from labeling Hamas as a terrorist group. Xi met with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas,back in June, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously saidhe would travel to China later this year.
Burgess Everett contributed to this report.