Palestine, Israel, and China
China’s remarkable Middle Eastern balancing act continues:
- In March this year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, and spent three days touring around China with an enormous business delegation.
- On July 18, CNBC reported that “Israel has laid out the welcoming mat to Chinese companies and investors,” and that Israeli tech firms are increasingly reliant on funding from China.
- Also on July 18, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Xi Jinping in Beijing. The meeting was the top story of all central state media such as the People’s Daily (in Chinese).
- Xinhua News Agency’s English version of the report was headlined “China supports two-state solution on Palestinian issue,” and said that “China will unswervingly push forward relations with Palestine and the Middle East peace process.”
WhatsApp throttled in China
WhatsApp, the mobile messaging service acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, was the only Facebook platform accessible in China after the blocking of Facebook.com in 2009 and Instagram in 2014. Perhaps not for much longer:
- Reports from the South China Morning Post, the New York Times (paywall), and Bloomberg all indicate that the Great Firewall is starting to filter and disrupt WhatsApp messages.
- Likely reasons for the block: the death of Liu Xiaobo, and jitters over the upcoming 19th Party Congress, where important leadership decisions will be announced.
- Angry exiled tweeting billionaire Guo Wengui might be a factor in the block. See, for example, this story in the Diplomat: Will a Chinese tycoon’s social media campaign shake the 19th Party Congress?
Who will benefit?
- WhatsApp was never a real player in the domestic Chinese market — Tencent’s WeChat is the country’s messaging system of choice — so no company stands to gain much in the short term from WhatsApp’s disappearance.
- In the long term, it can’t harm Tencent to have one major global rival unable to operate inside the Great Firewall.
Meanwhile, across the straits
The China Post of Taiwan says that the media rights and journalism advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) has opened its first Asian bureau — in Taipei, “with a warm welcome…from President Tsai Ing-wen.” The organization chose Taipei for its central geographic location and “its status of being the freest place in Asia” in RSF’s annual press freedom ranking.