BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Chinese President Xi Jinping in a rare meeting Monday that he was “very disappointed” by China’s failure to strongly condemn the recent Hamas attack on Israel and show sympathy for the country and its people.
Schumer is leading a delegation of six senators to China this week. The delegation, which includes three Democrats and three Republicans, is the first visit by U.S. lawmakers since 2019 and comes at a time of growing attacks on China in Congress as America contends with Beijing’s rise as a global power.
“I urge you and the Chinese people to stand with the Israeli people and condemn these cowardly and vicious attacks,” said Schumer.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement on Sunday called on both sides to exercise restraint and immediately end the hostilities — but made no mention of the unprecedented Hamas surprise attack early Saturday that has left more than 1,100 dead in fighting so far and thousands wounded on both sides. On Monday, Israeli soldiers were still fighting the militants to secure the border with Gaza.
In the ministry statement, China also said that establishing an independent state of Palestine is the fundamental way to resolve the issue.
“The recurrence of the conflict shows once again that the protracted standstill of the peace process cannot go on,” the statement said, adding that the international community needs to act with greater urgency and facilitate the sumption of peace talks.
Schumer met earlier with the head of China’s rubber stamp parliament and the country’s highest-ranking diplomat, Wang Yi, to whom he delivered the same statement about the recent violence. Wang did not respond before journalists were escorted out of the room.
The two governments are trying to arrange a meeting between Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping during a regional summit in San Francisco next month in a bid to manage the increasingly fraught relationship.
China has traditionally backed the Palestinian cause but has also boosted ties with Israel as it seeks a larger role in trade, technology and diplomacy. In recent years, it has stepped up its involvement in the Middle East, assisting in the restoration of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran and welcoming Syrian President Bashar Assad on a visit to China.
“I was very disappointed to be honest by the Foreign Ministry statement that showed no sympathy or support for Israel during these troubled times,” Schumer said near the end of his remark to Xi.
He said that the top priority for the Senate delegation is seeking fair trade between the two countries.
“We want the Chinese people to have economic opportunity. That would be good for America,” he said. “But China must also provide a level playing field for American companies and workers. Many Americans, most Americans including our delegation, do not believe we have that fairness now.”
Wang urged the United States to respect China’s core interests and development rights. The Chinese government views American restrictions on trade and technology exports to China as attempts to hold back the country’s economic growth.
Schumer also raised the issues of Chinese companies that the U.S. says are supplying chemicals for fentanyl production, ensuring China does not support what he called Russia’s “immoral war” against Ukraine, advancing human rights and releasing detained Americans.