Decades of communist subversion by China underlie the terror currently witnessed in the Middle East.
Try searching for “Israel” on China’s biggest search engine Baidu—the nation’s name is no longer on the map.
The discovery, which caught many in China by surprise on Oct. 30, is the latest twist in a calculated silence by the regime in Beijing, in contrast to other major world powers that have rushed to Israel’s side.
As hostility proliferates against Israel on China’s heavily censored internet and in state media, the terrorist group responsible for the deadly assault hasn’t elicited a single mention in official statements coming out of Beijing.
Pressed twice during a recent news briefing why Chinese authorities had refused to “say the word ‘Hamas,’” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson maintained that the regime stands for justice and opposes “all violent attacks.”
It’s “basically a different way of siding with Hamas,” Miles Yu, a China policy adviser at the U.S. State Department during the Trump administration, told The Epoch Times.
To Mr. Yu and other China watchers, Beijing’s reticence is little more than a facade. Far from being the peace advocate that it asserts to be, he said, the regime is “giddy about all the crises elsewhere in the world” that divert attention away from its own ambitions.
Since Hamas carried out its horrific attack on Israel on Oct. 7, much scrutiny has been directed at Iran over its alleged role in making it possible, with reports suggesting that Tehran furnished the Hamas terrorists with training and logistical support.
Iran hasn’t been shy in demonstrating its support for Hamas. The regime cheered the rampage as a “historic victory,” organized rallies in support of Palestinians, and vowed to “continue cooperation” in advancing the group’s goals. It provides about $100 million annually to Palestinian groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, according to a State Department report from 2020. In 2022, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh publicly said the group had received about $70 million from Iran that year, which it used to make rockets.
However, China analysts, including a longtime insider from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) elite ranks, say that an overemphasis on Iran misses the point.
“China is the ultimate enabler of the Iranian terrorist-sponsoring regime,” Mr. Yu said. “Indirectly, China is responsible for this crisis.”
While there’s no direct link that points to China’s hand in the current conflict, China has forged close ties with Iran to counter U.S. influence in the Middle East. Besides being Iran’s biggest trade partner for 10 consecutive years, China in March helped to mend ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran at a time when Israel was seeking to restore relations with Riyadh.
Meanwhile, Chinese entities have repeatedly flouted U.S. rules to supply military equipment to Iran to help it develop drones, missiles, and its nuclear program.
Eyal Pinko, a retired Israeli navy commander, said it’s “obvious” to him that China, Iran, and Hamas are part of “one gang.”
“Even in the nuclear program, Iran is involved with China,” he told The Epoch Times. “Their cooperation is definitely strategic and very tight.”
Christopher Balding, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, a trans-Atlantic foreign policy and national security think tank, agrees.
“It defies any logic that China is unaware that it’s at the very least tacitly or implicitly supporting Hamas,” he told The Epoch Times.
He further pointed to the presence of Chinese telecom operators Huawei and ZTE in the Middle East—including in Iran and Lebanon. These tools have likely been feeding intelligence to Beijing ”at scale.”
He added that it’s likely that “China’s data gatherers knew there was chatter” about Hamas’s activities before the attack occurred.
Emerging ‘Axis of Evil’
A protracted war in the Middle East would be a clear victory for Beijing on many fronts. It would drain Western resources and distract from the Indo-Pacific region, where the Chinese regime is aggressively wrestling for control.
With the United States increasingly focused on Ukraine and Israel, the CCP has an opening to expand its wings elsewhere, solidifying an anti-Western coalition that could fulfill its pursuit of a new world order. With Russia’s weakened position since it opened its war on Ukraine, Chinese leader Xi Jinping would naturally be the “boss,” Cai Xia, who made a career teaching and training high-ranking Chinese officials at the CCP’s Central Party School, told The Epoch Times.
“Just watch. Whoever is the biggest benefactor, that’s probably the instigator behind the scenes,” she said.
“They will seize any and every resource in the world they can get their hands on that serves their goals. In their eyes, everything’s about power and status. There’s no moral limit.”
The Kremlin and Beijing’s alignment on the Israel–Hamas war is evident in their joining hands to coordinate on Middle East policy. On Oct. 26, about a week after Beijing rolled out the red carpet for Mr. Putin, a Hamas delegation appeared in Moscow to discuss the release of detained Russian hostages, after which Hamas released a statement praising Mr. Putin’s effort to end what it called “the crimes of Israel that are supported by the West.”
At the United Nations, China has a record of consistently amplifying the Palestinian cause. Together with Russia, it blocked a U.S.-led resolution on Oct. 25 that sought to condemn Hamas’s attack and support Israel’s right to self-defense.
A new “axis of evil” is already “quite apparent” between China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea, Cheng Chin-mo, an expert on international relations at Taiwan’s Tamkang University, told The Epoch Times. To the communist regime in China, the rule of thumb is simple, he says.
“As long as you are against America, you are my friend. This is their bottom line.”
A ‘Communist Construct’
The history of Beijing’s ties with the Palestinians dates to the mid-1960s, when China became the first non-Arab country to recognize the newly created Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a representative of the Palestinian people and granted it an office in Beijing.
State media reports describe Yasser Arafat, who presided over the PLO from 1969 until his death in 2004, as a loyal fan of CCP founder Mao Zedong. The latter’s guerrilla warfare strategy achieved “great effect” in the PLO’s fight with Israelis, according to one 2021 article shared on Chinese embassy and consulate websites.
The “deep camaraderie” was likely why Mr. Arafat traveled to China “whenever the Palestinian cause faced a turning point,” the same article said, noting that Mr. Arafat “made a habit of exchanging views with Chinese leaders once a year.”
Party mouthpieces in China have taken pride in the regime’s influence in the Palestinian areas. A 1969 report in Chinese state media People’s Daily cited Palestinian fighters as saying Mr. Mao’s quotations and writings were their “spiritual food” and “most powerful weapon.”
The reporter said the Palestinians held Mao in such awe that they hung his portrait across Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan and worshiped his writings as more vital than food and water.
Moustapha Saphariny, the Palestinian ambassador to China from 1992 to 2002, had received political and military training in China at the age of 19 before going on the battlefield against Israel. He met his wife while studying international politics at Peking University and considered China his “second hometown,” according to a 2016 book that his alma mater published under his name.
“These terrorist organizations always drew on Maoism,” said Trevor Loudon, an expert on communist infiltration and an Epoch Times contributor. That socialist groups started coming out in force across the world to rally in support of Hamas strikes him as no coincidence.
“What we call Islamic terrorism is a communist construct,” he said, and whether or not the “guerrilla at the bottom of the heap” realizes it, the leadership is “pursuing communist goals.”
The regime’s support for the Palestinians has continued. After signing a December 2022 pact on the Belt and Road Initiative—the infrastructure mega-projects through which Beijing exports its political and economic clout—in June, they formed a strategic partnership during Mr. Abbas’s fifth visit to China, at the same time as the Chinese city of Wuhan announced a friendship agreement with Ramallah that marked the first of its kind between China and the Palestinians.
‘Nothing Is Accidental’
China was directly implicated in aiding Hamas more than 10 years ago, when victims of bombing and rocket attacks in Israel filed a $1 billion lawsuit against the Bank of China, accusing the central bank of knowingly facilitating payments to Hamas. While initially throwing its weight behind the suit, the Israeli government backed away in late 2013 and barred a former counterterrorism agent critical to the case from giving testimony, reportedly due to Chinese pressure.
“Money is the oxygen for terrorism,” Israeli lawyer Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who was involved in the case, told The Epoch Times. Beijing controls the Bank of China, she said, so any step by the bank is a reflection of Chinese government policy.
“At the time, it was very disturbing that China was basically supporting Hamas,” she said.
Beijing has meanwhile made clear that it intends to engage with the Palestinians on its own terms.
Ignoring U.S. and Israel opposition, Chinese authorities in 2006 welcomed senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar to the Chinese capital.
Such a gesture legitimizes Hamas and “cements Hamas’s position as the voice for Palestine and for the Palestinian people,” Matthew Johnson, a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, told The Epoch Times.
Militarily, Chinese arms shipments to the PLO began as early as the year of its creation in 1964 and continued through the early 1980s, with at least two “large quantities of heavy weapons” delivered in a week’s span in September 1981, according to Mark Morrison in his 1984 thesis paper for the Naval Postgraduate School, a U.S. Navy-run school that trains military officers.
Researcher Lillian Craig Harris in 1977 characterized Beijing as “the most consistent big power supporter of the Palestinian guerrilla organizations, arming them, criticizing them, seeking to unify them and, despite fluctuations in the relationship, providing moral and material support.”
Without the Chinese military aid, “the PLO might not be the politically powerful organization it is today,” she wrote in the academic journal Journal of Palestine Studies.
In the current war, as in the past, weapons based on Chinese technology have trickled into Gaza and appeared in Hamas’s hands.
Mr. Pinko recalled that while still in the Navy during the 2006 Lebanon War, the flagship Israeli ship Hanit was hit by Iranian missiles that appeared to be Chinese replicas. Israel officials in 2014 identified smuggled Syrian rockets based on long-range systems developed by China’s state-owned Sichuan Aerospace Industry Corp.
In 2009, battlefield photos showed pipes from a Chinese steelmaker in the rockets of Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing in Gaza. The backlash that ensued prompted the Shandong Province-based company to clarify that the pipes were destined for a Middle Eastern gas company.
“The only thing it shows is that our factory’s products are top grade and reasonably priced,” the company said, adding that it can’t reveal “which nation is the client,” but it was “definitely not Lebanon.”
In a 2014 military parade, Hamas also showed off a Chinese armored personal carrier known as the Type 63, which has been popular in the Middle East, according to the Chinese state-owned media platform ifeng.
“Nothing is accidental with the Chinese,” Mr. Pinko said.
To Mr. Loudon, the various political groups in Palestinian areas are no different from “different factions of the mafia.”
“They might bash each other for territory at times,” he said, “but they’re all united in supporting communism, hating the West, and wanting to destroy Israel.”
While Israel has been a longtime close trade partner with China, the war might lead it to reassess the relationship. Israel’s de facto ambassador Maya Yaron called Taiwan “really a good friend” for its vocal support, while calling China’s response “very disturbing.”
There’s no crystal ball, but a sense of danger is clear.
“We’re getting closer and closer to a World War III scenario,” Mr. Loudon said. “Will it go over the edge? I hope not, but that’s what we should be looking at here.”
As for now, he said, “these countries are taking their opportunity while they can.”
Luo Ya contributed to this report.