April 30, 2024 | Flash Brief

Progress Elusive as China Hosts Palestinian Unity Talks

April 30, 2024 | Flash Brief

Progress Elusive as China Hosts Palestinian Unity Talks

Latest Developments

Chinese officials said that Fatah and Hamas appear willing to smooth over their longstanding differences following a round of negotiations over the weekend between the two opposing Palestinian factions in Beijing, Reuters reported on April 30. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said, “The two sides fully expressed their political will to achieve reconciliation through dialogue and consultation, discussed many specific issues and made positive progress.” Yet, as in previous attempts at reconciliation, the two sides did not agree to anything more than to continue their dialogue. 

Hamas, an Iran-backed terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA), which is controlled by the Fatah party and led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, have been in conflict since a brutal 2007 civil war between their supporters in Gaza. According to Reuters, Hamas Politburo official Mousa Abu Marzouk, who arrived in China on Friday, led Hamas’s delegation at the talks, while Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of the PA’s Legislative Council, led Fatah’s delegation. Previous efforts at reconciliation failed to produce significant progress, including Russia’s effort in late February and Egypt’s effort in July 2023. 

Expert Analysis

“This is not China’s first attempt at brokering Palestinian unity. And it likely will not be the last. These two rival factions have bad blood dating back to the civil war of 2007, if not before. The divisions are deep, bitter, and systemic.” — Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research 

“China’s involvement in facilitating Palestinian unity negotiations reflects its ambition to assert regional influence. However, the intractable divisions between Fatah and Hamas, as evidenced by previous attempts at reconciliation, present formidable obstacles to achieving lasting unity. China’s capacity to navigate these complexities and foster genuine progress remains to be seen.” — Craig Singleton, FDD Senior Fellow and Senior Director of FDD’s China Program

Chinese Support for Palestinians

China has supported the Palestinian Liberation Organization since the 1960s and, in 2012, backed the PA’s bid to become a United Nations (UN) non-member observer state. In March, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called for the PA to receive full membership at the UN. Since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7, China has failed to condemn Hamas and has accused Israel of going “beyond the scope of self-defense” in its Gaza operations. In February, China requested the International Court of Justice to determine whether Israel was illegally occupying Palestinian territories. China has supported United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza without requiring Hamas to return its Israeli hostages or to disarm. In March, China joined Russia in vetoing a U.S.-led UNSC resolution calling for an immediate Gaza ceasefire, the release of remaining hostages, and a halt to Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea. In an April 29 editorial in China Daily — the official mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party — China accused the United States of pouring “oil on the flames of the conflict while posing as an earnest peace-broker” for providing Israel with military aid. 

In recent years, Beijing has sought to assert its influence over global affairs, including the Middle East, maintaining significant trade relationships with the U.S.-allied Gulf Arab states and Iran. In March 2023, Beijing brokered a deal that restored diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which were severed in 2016 following violent protests at Tehran’s Saudi embassy over the kingdom’s execution of a popular Shiite cleric and for Iran’s sponsorship of Houthi rebels in Yemen. 

Russia to Host Palestinian Unity Talks,” FDD Flash Brief 

Poll: Hamas Remains Popular Among Palestinians,” FDD Flash Brief

The Palestinian Authority Can’t Govern Gaza After the War,” by Hussain Abdul-Hussain

Beijing Refuses to Condemn Hamas, Steps Up Criticism of Israel,” by Craig Singleton

China Fails to Condemn Hamas Terrorism,” FDD Flash Brief 


China Israel Israel at War Palestinian Politics