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Chinese responses to killing of Iranian military leader

The late Qasem Soleimani.  

Last week, China, Iran, and Russia held a four-day joint military exercise in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. On December 31, 2019, China’s Foreign Minister Wáng Yì 王毅 met his Iranian counterpart in the Chinese capital and said, “Beijing and Tehran should stand together against ‘unilateralism and bullying.’”

Today, Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, was killed in a drone strike near Baghdad. The attack happened earlier today, on orders from U.S. President Donald Trump. Per the South China Morning Post, this is the official Chinese response:

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Gěng Shuǎng 耿爽 said Beijing was “highly concerned” about the growing tensions in the Middle East, and that it opposed the use of force in international relations.

“China advocates that all parties should earnestly abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms of international relations,” Geng said in a press briefing on Friday. “We urge all parties concerned, especially the United States, to keep calm and exercise restraint and avoid a further escalation of tensions.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, at about the same time as Geng was speaking, tweeted:

I spoke today with Chinese Politburo Member Yáng Jiéchí 杨洁篪 to discuss Donald Trump’s decision to eliminate Soleimani in response to imminent threats to American lives. I reiterated our commitment to de-escalation.

Xinhua News Agency also noted the call (in Chinese):  

Yang Jiechi said that China is highly concerned about the current situation in the Middle East… It is hoped that the parties concerned, especially the United States, will exercise restraint and return to the track of seeking a solution to the problem through dialogue as soon as possible to promote the reduction of tension.

Nationalist rag Global Times published an editorial (in English and Chinese) with this conclusion:

It’s fair to say the US Middle East policy is a failure. Washington today cares more about how to woo American voters to support the current government. It has little interest in working out a long-term solution to the Middle East problem, but is more willing to conduct short-term operations.

Comments on Chinese social media run the gamut. Perhaps the most common reaction, at least in this post (in Chinese), is “I wish for world peace” (愿世界和平 yuàn shìjiè hépíng). But many strongly criticize the U.S., and support Iran for standing up to American hegemony. In some comments sections, an often repeated sentiment is that the American government is the real terrorist.

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Jeremy Goldkorn

Jeremy Goldkorn worked in China for 20 years as an editor and entrepreneur. He is editor-in-chief of SupChina, and co-founder of the Sinica Podcast.

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