China is set to host a forum on its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with representatives from 130 countries in attendance. This event is taking place amid ongoing international conflicts, including the Israel-Gaza war and the Ukraine crisis. Notably, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is among the prominent guests, marking his first significant international visit since the Ukraine invasion led to his regime’s isolation and an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for his arrest.
Leaders have started arriving in Beijing for this forum, which aims to showcase the global reach of the BRI, one of President Xi Jinping’s signature projects. However, the ongoing Israeli bombardment of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip is expected to dominate the headlines. Israel declared war on Hamas after an attack on October 7, resulting in a significant loss of life and destruction.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has criticized Israel’s actions as going beyond self-defense and called for an end to the violence. Beijing has faced criticism from Western officials for not explicitly naming Hamas in its statements on the Israel-Gaza conflict. The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, has urged China to use its influence in the Middle East to promote calm.
China has a warm relationship with Iran, which supports both Hamas and Hezbollah, potentially opening a second front against Israel. Earlier this year, China played a role in improving relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, former regional foes.
Beijing’s special envoy, Zhai Jun, will visit the Middle East to push for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict and promote peace talks, according to China’s state broadcaster, CCTV.
The BRI summit provides China with an opportunity to frame attendance as a show of support for its positions on global issues, as suggested by Niva Yau, a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub.
Several world leaders have already arrived in Beijing for the two-day forum, including Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Chilean President Gabriel Boric, Kenyan President William Ruto, and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Russia’s Sergey Lavrov also held talks with China’s Foreign Minister Wang in Beijing.
The deepening partnership between Russia and China is underpinned by their strategic dependence on each other. Their close relationship is further strengthened by their shared concerns about Western dominance. Both leaders, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, have described each other as “dear friends.” Their collaboration includes China’s support for Russia during its isolation following the Ukraine conflict and booming trade ties.
In an interview with Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, Putin highlighted the mutual benefits of the BRI and praised Xi Jinping as a recognized world leader. Their alliance reflects their shared vision of a multipolar world and their cooperative efforts against Western dominance. Xi and Putin have held summits and continue to foster this vital relationship.
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