Xi to Meet Schumer, US Senators Amid Tension on Hamas-Israel War

Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with a bipartisan delegation of US senators in Beijing on Monday, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with a bipartisan delegation of US senators in Beijing on Monday, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier in the day criticized Beijing’s response to Hamas’ unprecedented incursion into Israel this weekend, during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The surprise escalation of violence in the Middle East threatens to add tensions to a meeting intended to smooth ties.

“I was very disappointed, to be honest, by the foreign ministry’s statement that showed no sympathy or support for Israel during these tough, troubled times,” Schumer said during a meeting with China’s top diplomat in Beijing on Monday.

“I urge you and the Chinese people to stand with the Israeli people and condemn these cowardly and vicious attacks,” he added.

Wang told the bipartisan delegation of US lawmakers, led by Schumer and Republican Senator Mike Crapo, he hoped their visit would get relations back on track. 

The American politician was in China when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared his country is “at war,” after Gaza Strip militants fired over 3,000 missiles and infiltrated Israel’s southern parts early Saturday. The combined death toll from the Hamas attack and Israel’s subsequent air strikes in Gaza has climbed to more than 1,100.

China’s Foreign Ministry called for an immediate ceasefire and reiterated support for an independent Palestinian state on Sunday. That statement did not mention Hamas by name, and characterized the weekend’s events as an “escalation of tensions and violence between Palestine and Israel.”

Schumer expressed his disappointment with China’s response to the Hamas attack after he stressed ensuring “economic reciprocity” as the main purpose of the US delegation’s trip.

“The United States does not want decoupling. We want the Chinese people to have economic opportunity. That would be good for America. But China must also provide a level playing field for American companies and workers,” he said at the meeting in the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse. “Most Americans, including our delegation, do not believe that we have that fairness now.”

The other issues on the agenda concern Chinese companies’ role in the fentanyl crisis in the US and human rights. Schumer also told Wang he wanted to make sure China does not support Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine.

Wang, who spoke first, said the recent efforts to stabilize US-China relations were “a correct move” welcomed by the two countries and the rest of the world.

“It is hoped that this visit can help the US side understand China more accurately, view China more objectively, and manage existing differences more rationally, so as to help China-US relations return to the track of healthy development,” Wang said.

The senators have also said they hope to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a possible exchange that could now be fraught with tensions over developments in the Middle East. 

Before arriving in Beijing the senators met with American business leaders in Shanghai, where they discussed the issue of fair competition for some American companies operating in China. 

President Joe Biden has sent a steady stream of cabinet-level officials to Beijing since June, in a bid to stabilize ties between the world’s largest economies. That flurry of diplomacy has raised expectations of a meeting between Xi and Biden at a major summit in the US next month. 

The White House encouraged the senators to go, a person familiar with the planning said prior to their departure. 

Schumer and Crapo had also planned to raise issues on behalf of Micron Technology Inc., which is headquartered in Crapo’s home state of Idaho and building a massive chip production facility in Schumer’s New York.

(Updates throughout.)

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