China Shelves Anti-Separatism Policy with Call for East Jerusalem as Palestinian Capital

Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem are seen in the background as tourists walk atop a wall surrounding Jerusalem's Old City August 13, 2013. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun, File

Chinese President Xi Jinping violated his nation’s long-standing policy of respecting the sovereignty of other nations and opposing “separatism” in a speech to the Arab League calling for a Palestinian state, with its capital in east Jerusalem.

“China supports the peaceful process in the Middle East [and] the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital being eastern Jerusalem,” he told the international coalition last week, claiming the nation of “Palestine” should consist of territory within “the pre-1967-war borders” and that Palestinian separatist groups “should not be marginalized.”

“Maintaining the legitimate interests of the Palestinian people is the responsibility of the Arab League as well as the international community,” Xi declared, announcing China would gift Palestinian leaders $7.6 million in “aid” funding.

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. The Palestinian Authority seeks a state in the so-called pre-1967 borders, meaning the West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem. As Breitbart Jerusalem’s Aaron Klein explains:

Some of the holiest sites in Judaism are located in eastern Jerusalem and the West Bank, including the Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City; the Cave of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron, which was home to the oldest continuous Jewish community in the world until the Jews of Hebron were massacred and expelled; the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem; and Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus – biblical Shechem.

Xi’s plan would essentially usurp large chunks of this territory, essentially supporting a separatist movement. China nominally advertises a strict non-separatist foreign policy, however, going as far as to call groups seeking independence from sovereign states one of the world’s “three evil forces” along with terrorism and “extremism.”

China has largely opposed separatist movements worldwide as a way of seeking support for their own opposition to separatists within China. The nation currently faces four major independence movements: in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang. While the Tibet and Xinjiang separatist movements are more conventionally aspirational, Hong Kong and Taiwan — unlike some groups China supports despite its nominal opposition to separatism — already support independent, anti-communist governments.

This has not stopped the Chinese Communist Party from demanding that all nations disregard Taiwan’s sovereignty and the calls for freedom from the other three regions. “We will never allow any person, any group, any political party, at any time, in any way, to split from China any part of its territory,” Xi asserted in a speech in November. “To uphold our national sovereignty and territorial integrity, to never let our country split again and to never let history repeat itself – these are our solemn promises to our people and to our history.”

China has begun demanding more loudly that other nations do not regard Taiwan as a sovereign nation since then-President-elect Donald Trump spoke to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and questioned the wisdom of the “One China” policy, which states the United States cannot engage Taiwan.

Outside its own borders, China has attempted to keep with its anti-separatist policies when there is no direct benefit for the Communist Party in the way. China opposed the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, for example, claiming the creation of that state would lead to a “grave negative impact” in the region. While the Chinese Foreign Ministry never commented on it, state-run newspapers opposed Scotland’s bid for independence from the UK. China has been lukewarm on calls from Marxist Kurdish groups to create an independent Kurdistan, with state media even condemning the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Marxist terrorist group. Even in the face of separatism promoted by sometimes-ally Russia in Ukraine, the Chinese government issued a statement saying, “We respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

As Xi’s stance on a Palestinian state shows, however, China is willing to shelve this policy under circumstances where Beijing may have something to gain. China publicly applauded the independence of South Sudan, where it has loaned millions in aid and stationed hundreds of “peacekeeping” troops. While supporting Ukraine’s independence, China stayed silent on separatist movements in Georgia, which Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded in 2008. In Kashmir — a territory split between Pakistani and Indian separatists — China publicly supports neither while claiming a fifth of Kashmir for itself. China has also been accused of privately supporting separatist agitators on the Japanese island of Okinawa.


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