People’s Daily published an article about a briefing of a Chinese Foreign Ministry press-secretary under the headline “China welcomes Bush’s Mideast initiative”. China Dailyechoes: “China welcomes USA’s peace efforts.” However, participants of the poll held by the web site of the China Daily unanimously turn down the key item of Bush’s initiative: the removal of Yasser Arafat from a political scene. The poll was held for 24 hours, and the number of participants reached 386 by today. The China Daily asked," Do you think that if Arafat is replaced, peace will finally be brought to the region?" Seventy-seven people (less than 20%) answered “yes," while 270 (almost 70%) answered “no." This reveals that the rating of the Palestinian leader is still very high in China. Does this mean that China Foreign Ministry’s Press-secretary Liu Jianchao is not keeping in step with the community? As it turned out, the discrepancy was not really very great. Liu Jianchao said, “We hope the new initiative put forward by President Bush can help solve the Middle East conflict.” But, at the same time, he added, “ President Arafat was elected by the Palestinian people and is recognized by the world community”.
Traditionally, Chinese diplomats keep from breaking lances in situations that are automatically treated as hopeless and avoid scandals with Washington when the latter aims at the removal of a political leader in a third country. For example, President Milosevic, who used to be very popular among the Chinese population, was successfully forgotten when it was clear that resistance to Washington was useless. As of now, Beijing is trying to avoid conflicts with the USA; however, it is not yet ready to wash its hands of the Mideast conflict.
China is looking forward to getting information Vice Foreign Minister Yang Wenchang, who is on his visit to the Middle East now. Unlike Russia’s Federation Council Speaker Sergey Mironov, who met with Ariel Sharon only, Yang Wenchang met with both, Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat. There is every reason to believe that China’s policy aimed at support of Palestinians will not be changed: Chinese diplomats want to remain friendly with the Chinese community, on the one hand, and with the Arab world, on the other.
Andrey Krushinsky PRAVDA.Ru Beijing
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/06/27/43359.html