Chinese President Xi Jinping met Monday in Beijing with a delegation of U.S. senators, hours after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted Beijing’s stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“I urge you and the Chinese people to stand with the Israeli people and condemn the cowardly and vicious attacks upon them,” Schumer told Xi in the meeting, which he attended with a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers. “I say this with respect, but I was disappointed by the foreign minister’s statement showing no sympathy or his support for the Israeli people during these tragedies.”
Earlier in the day, Schumer met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during which he criticized Beijing’s response to Hamas’ unprecedented incursion into Israel this weekend. The surprise escalation of violence in the Middle East threatens to add tensions to a meeting intended to smooth ties.
Read More: A Surprise Attack Upends Israel and the Middle East
Wang told the bipartisan delegation of U.S. 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.”
Read More: China Calls for Ceasefire, ‘Two-State Solution’ Amid Conflict Between Hamas, 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 U.S. 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 with Wang 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 U.S. 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 U.S.-China relations were “a correct move” welcomed by the two countries and the rest of the world.
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“It is hoped that this visit can help the U.S. side understand China more accurately, view China more objectively, and manage existing differences more rationally, so as to help China-U.S. relations return to the track of healthy development,” Wang said.
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 U.S. 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.