China and the Gaza war

Where Marxists / ISA stand: 


A Palestinian child has been killed every ten minutes in Israel’s war! Gaza is a killing zone without shelter, water, food, medicine or electricity. More Palestinian civilians have died in this war than in any previous Israeli war – over 11,000 within the first six weeks. That’s already more than the Ukrainian civilians killed in the 20 months since Russia’s brutal invasion.  Yet the same western governments who call Putin a “monster” and “war criminal” claim Netanyahu’s war is “legitimate” to fight “terrorism”. Millions have taken to the streets worldwide to protest against their own governments’ complicity. Turnouts have broken records in some cities like London.

The October 7 incursion into Israel by the right-wing islamist Hamas group was a brutal attack, which killed more civilians – not only Jews but also Palestinian Arabs and migrants – than in any conflict in Israel’s history. This has been cynically exploited by Netanyahu and his Western allies as a pretext for the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. There are parallels with “China’s 9/11” in Kunming in 2014, when a Uighur terrorist group slaughtered unarmed civilians. Xi Jinping used that incident to maximize repression against China’s Uighurs, building more than 350 prison camps (see next page). Marxists stand in full solidarity with the Palestinian masses – as with the Uighurs – to resist occupation and war. But we warn that the reactionary methods, ideology and policies of groups like Hamas can never offer a road to victory. 


China’s dictator Xi Jinping wants to position himself to gain from the Gaza war in diplomatic and geopolitical terms at the expense of the U.S. To this end, Beijing has taken a leaf from its Ukraine war playbook and is pursuing a policy of ‘anti-Western neutrality’. This is not genuine neutrality, nor is it a sincere effort to broker peace. It is another example of the capitalist CCP’s hypocritical ‘diplospeak’ which all imperialist powers use to dress up their real aims (political power and economic control) with vague non-violent rhetoric. As ISA Taiwan comrades declared on their banner at recent protests against the Gaza war: “Neither the U.S. war machine nor China’s lie machine can bring peace!”

There are some reasons to believe China’s anti-U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East will fall on more fertile ground than it has over Ukraine. That war (Europe’s biggest since 1945) has seen Xi’s regime suffer significant global setbacks: Lost markets in Europe, NATO’s historic expansion, and political gains for Biden’s anti-China global alliances. But it is the U.S. that could lose most – it already is – as a result of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza. The masses worldwide rightly see Biden as an enabler. This will even more be the case should Netanyahu ignite a region-wide war. For now, Xi’s regime hopes to sit back while the U.S. leadership further disgraces itself on the world stage. It sees a chance to tip the Cold War scales back in China’s favour. But this tactic is also fraught with dangers. A wider regional war would be disastrous for Chinese imperialism which needs “stability” to make profits and expand its financial power.  And as Joe Biden’s standing sinks at home and abroad, Beijing may face an even worse opponent after the 2024 elections. 


Capitalism returned to China in the 1980s, as its formerly Stalinist ‘CCP’ dictatorship abandoned economic planning. Thirty years of rapid capitalist expansion then transformed China into the 2nd strongest imperialist power. It was an inevitable outcome, as Lenin’s analysis predicted. Chinese imperialism is not a carbon copy of the older imperialisms. But neither is U.S. imperialism an exact copy of its European forerunners: U.S. global rule is built on indirect control, by Wall Street and the IMF, rather than through formal colonies and military occupation. China’s banks finance vast projects via its Belt and Road Initiative in “win-win” deals with over 150 countries. But for many this has become a debt trap and a tightening of China’s economic grip. 


The two biggest imperialist powers in economic and military terms, the U.S. and China, are locked in an increasingly tense, to-the-death power struggle. The new Cold War is about being number one. The U.S. has since 1945 been the main superpower, but has successively lost ground not least in the Middle East. Its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and U.S. support for Israel’s brutal occupation, have severely damaged America’s brand name across the Arab world and beyond. Chinese capitalism, while not yet at power parity, is viewed as Washington’s only real global challenger. Almost three decades of mutual economic integration – once described as “Chimerica” – has reversed into confrontation. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 accelerated this process with massive military escalation and two rival imperialist blocs forming. Israel’s latest war against the Palestinians, “without a plan” or clear idea where it’s going, could raise the Cold War struggle to a new level and in some ways favour Beijing.

Biden’s government wants to lean on Beijing to put pressure on Iran (part of China’s bloc) not to further escalate or react to Israel’s aggression by for example unleashing its allied groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. But in payment for such diplomatic cooperation, what can the U.S. offer Beijing? It is not in a position to roll back its tech and trade sanctions, anti-China alliance building, or other Cold War measures. On Gaza, Xi Jinping is pursuing the same ‘anti-Western neutrality’ he adopted over Ukraine. He wants to win diplomatic ground at Biden’s cost while Israeli warplanes bomb Gaza to dust. But Xi’s regime also risks incurring heavy losses if Israel’s actions sparks a wider Middle East war.


The new Cold War has cost China’s economy big time. As a counterweight, the CCP is boosting its influence and economic ties in the so-called Global South (Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America). China now has more trade with these economies than with all the Western “democratic” countries. Xi hopes to build a network of alliances in this region to push back against the wealthier U.S.-led bloc, happily recruiting other dictatorships like Iran and the Saudis. Beijing’s vague, pacifistic, pro-Palestinian line aims to win support in Arab capitals and across the Global South, but without in anyway changing the economic system that creates national oppression, occupation and war. Xi stands for a capitalist Middle East, but one tied to China.


Xi Jinping’s dictatorship commits “crimes against humanity” in Muslim-majority Xinjiang. Even the United Nations says so. For Xi, Netanyahu’s invasion of Gaza offers relief by turning the global spotlight away from his persecution of 10 million Uighurs. Mass detention camps misnamed “vocational schools” have been used by the Chinese state to incarcerate, torture, and break the spirits of up to 2 million Uighur men and women.  Arab regimes that queue for China’s financial and diplomatic support have never protested the mass repression of fellow Muslims in Xinjiang. Most of the (pro-capitalist) Uighur groups in exile stand with Israel and refuse to support the Palestinians because they mistakenly look to U.S. imperialism’s support against Beijing. 


The Hamas leaders calculated that Netanyahu would respond to the October 7 massacre by unleashing hell upon Gaza, yet they went ahead without any democratic discussion or accountability believing this was the correct strategy, to put a brake on the “normalization” process (with Israel) pursued by Arab regimes such as the Saudi dictatorship. This is far away from the fighting traditions and methods laid down in the first Palestinian intifada in 1987: Mass struggle with elected people’s committees.

International Socialist Alternative (ISA) and its supporters in Israel-Palestine stand for a democratic, broad struggle for national and social liberation and to build international solidarity within the labor movement. A real political solution cannot come as a result of deals between the (mostly autocratic) regimes in the region, backed by one or other of the big imperialist blocs, but only through struggle against them and against their policies, which have led to the carnage. We fight a democratic socialist Palestine, a state with full equal rights, alongside a democratic, socialist Israel, with full equal rights for minorities, as part of a socialist regional confederation. Against the background of the disastrous capitalist nationalist politics, it is necessary to change the agenda, putting topmost the need for internationalist, class and socialist struggle on both sides of the national divide.