Hamas is the bullet, Iran the gun, and China the person who pulled the trigger on the gun to fire the bullet that led to the Israel-Hamas war.

Iran’s partner in the global geopolitical game of survival in an existential crisis of diplomatic isolation, regional tensions, and a fragile economy is China. The Iranian regime views China as a potential ally against the United States, and Beijing views Iran as a potential partner for limiting U.S. influence in the Middle East.

China has remained Iran’s largest trading partner for 10 consecutive years as of 2022, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. China-Iran trade totaled USD 15.8 billion in 2022, up 7 percent year-on-year. In 2021, China agreed to invest between USD 400 to USD 600 billion in Iran over the next 25 years. In the field of transportation alone, China is going to invest USD 12 billion, which includes projects like the high-speed rail link between Tehran and Mashhad, and investment in the Imam Khomeini Airport City. China’s crude oil imports from Iran reportedly set a new record in December 2022.

China’s economic ties to Iran have shielded the Iranian regime from the effects of international sanctions. Over the past several years, China has become Iran’s number one oil customer and trading partner. China has saved roughly USD 4.2 billion by importing a record 1 million bpd from Iran from January 2023 to September 2023, 60 percent above pre-sanction peaks recorded by Chinese customs in 2017 at 623,000 bpd, as Tehran raised output to near-maximum levels and offered discounts as steep as USD 17 a barrel versus Brent.

In March 2023, China brokered an agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic ties seven years after severing relations. The deal reflected Beijing’s growing influence and interest in Iran and in the Middle East.

China has aided Iran’s efforts to modernize its military hardware and doctrine through the transfer of military technology and sales of small arms and tactical ballistic and anti-ship cruise missiles. China has also assisted in the development of Iran’s nuclear program through the transfer of technology and machinery. In August 2023, Iran became the newest member of the SCO, joining China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan. This grants Iran a freer hand to openly trade arms with Russia, China, and other SCO countries, which will result in Iran’s expanding its influence and aggression in the region.

Fighting and tension between Israel – Palestine in the West Bank, and Israel – Hamas in Gaza helped advance Iran’s aim of undermining US and Israel ties with Iran’s rivals in the Middle East region – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates. With the Abraham Accords, the United States under former US President Donald Trump scored a major diplomatic victory in which Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates agreed to have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Saudi Arabia and Israel were to strengthen their diplomatic relations in keeping with the Abraham Accords but the ongoing Israel-Hamas war has put those plans on ice. China to counter the influence of the United States in the Middle East impressed upon Iran to restore diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. China through Iran may have encouraged Hamas to attack Israel.

Hamas gains considerably from Iran’s provision of weapons, technology, training, and financing of terror operations. This support allows Hamas to carry out attacks against Israel. Iran sees Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad, as crucial centers of power in the Palestinian arena and uses these terror organizations to further its agenda against Israel.

Since the Gaza-Israel conflict escalated on October 7, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly stated that the question of Palestine needs to be resolved as soon as possible, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state is the only way to solve the question. Only when the “two-state solution” is fully implemented in the Middle East can real peace be ushered in. In fact, China’s position on the Palestinian concerns has been consistent. China backs the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on relevant United Nations documents and resolves the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through peaceful negotiations.

China does not directly work with Hamas, but it uses Iran to work with Hamas. Iran provides financial aid, weapons, training, and technological support to Hamas. The Israel-Hamas war will see more of China’s engagement in the Middle East. China is expected to play an enhanced role in efforts to end the war and secure its economic interests and wants to capitalize on the Arab states’ frustration with the U.S. to establish itself as a great power in the region.

Middle-East is crucial to China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) for its energy exports and over the years China has been deepening its economic cooperation with Middle-Eastern countries. Chinese investments and construction projects in two of the most prominent Arab nations – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have totaled USD 97 billion. China has pursued a proactive foreign policy and it is looking at its investments in the railways, roads, seaports, and airports as an extension of its influence in the Middle East.

The Chinese government has always propagated a narrative on the Israel-Palestine conflict that places the blame on Israel. That is because Israel is a close ally of the US and it is the objective of the CCP to undermine the United States government in the international geopolitical community.

The Israel-Hamas war has put on hold the peace talks between Israel and Saudi Arabia. China has ensured through Iran and Hamas that the Middle East region remains in a state of war. For China, the crisis is a chance to establish itself as a kingmaker in the Middle East, win ground from the United State and strengthen partnerships with Russia and across the Arab world. China has got Iran to use its pet Hamas well.