BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Schumer criticized China on Monday and told Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that he was very disappointed by China’s statement on the recent Hamas attack because it didn’t show any sympathy or support for Israel.
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 the rise of China 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 and dislodge Gaza gunmen from areas of southern Israel.
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 resumption of peace talks.
Wang, who spoke before Schumer in their opening remarks, 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 remarks.
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.