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China ‘deeply concerned’ after Iran strikes, online commenters largely oppose Israel

This video grab from AFPTV taken on April 14, 2024 shows explosions lighting up the sky in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank during an Iranian attack on Israel.
This video grab from AFPTV taken on April 14, 2024 shows explosions lighting up the sky in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank during an Iranian attack on Israel.

China’s foreign ministry Sunday said it is "deeply concerned" about escalating tensions in the Middle East.

Hours after Iran launched more than 320 warheads towards Israel in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on Tehran’s embassy in Damascus, China’s foreign ministry published a statement calling for the immediate implementation of a U.N. ceasefire resolution.

“China expresses deep concern over the current escalation and calls on relevant parties to exercise calm and restraint to prevent further escalations. The ongoing situation is the latest spillover of the Gaza conflict."

China has sought to play the role of mediator in the Middle East, last year helping to broker a deal that saw the restoration of diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

However Chinese companies have also been linked as suppliers for Iran’s military drone program, most recently in a U.S. Commerce department legal notice last week.

Online criticism of Israel

On China’s biggest social network Weibo, the attack became the most discussed topics with over 140 million clicks and more than 23,000 comments in the hours after the news came out.

It’s difficult to gauge the real reaction of Chinese Internet users since comments are routinely censored, but the majority of uncensored comments expressed opposition to Israel and the United States, and support for the Iranian attack on Israel.

China’s official news agency “Central TV News” published a post on Iran’s attack under its Weibo account and attracted over 3,700 comments within one day.

Many of the comments expressed doubts over Israeli reports saying that only one person was injured in Iran’s aerial barrage. A user with the handle “Pikachu and his AD calcium” said: “Israeli soldiers can only die with permission. No death or injuries, I don’t believe the news;” another one named “Owen665996” said, “This is obviously Israel’s propaganda.”

Israel said that its air defenses, aided by the United States and other countries, shot down 99% of the 320 warheads which were launched from places in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The White House called collective defense efforts “an incredible military achievement.”

In contrast to the “mainstream” stance, some readers left supporting comments on the official account of the Israeli Embassy in Beijing.

“Go Israel! Chinese with conscious support you to strike on terrorists,” said one Weibo user “Master of Minions.” Another one with the handle “Hello Hayek” said, “support Israel to strike back and rid the terrorist cult regime!”

The Chinese Embassy in Iran posted on its website on the early morning of Apr 14 that it “once again reminds Chinese citizens and enterprises in Iran to closely follow the local security situation and the security reminders issued by the Embassy.”

It urged Chinese citizens to “effectively enhance security awareness, always tighten the string of security precautions, resolutely avoid going to sensitive areas and densely populated places.”