Sitting in front of a map of the world, Chinese influencer Su Lin has been live-streaming rants in support of Hamas and against Israel since the war broke out. Coming almost every day, they are rife with anti-Semitism.
“Hamas is still being too soft, going way too easy,” says Ms Su, who has nearly one million followers online, in one video, adding that the Israelis are “lackeys of colonialism”.
“Shouldn’t they be captured?” she shouts into a microphone, referring to Israeli citizens taken hostage. “Israel is now just a Jewish version of the Nazis and militarism.”
Ms Su’s videos are part of a wave of anti-Semitism that has emerged online in China since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct 7.
That Beijing allows such sentiments to be shared on its heavily censored internet provides some insight into what narratives the ruling Communist Party is willing to promote on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
China has so far refused to condemn Hamas for its attack, angering Israel and risking Beijing’s relations with the country.
For years, Beijing has called for a two-state solution to establish an independent Palestine, a message that leader Xi Jinping reiterated this week in his first public remarks since war erupted, calling it a “fundamental way out”.
All this might seem a departure from China’s usual foreign policy not to “meddle” in other countries’ internal affairs.
But experts say that for China, support for the Palestinian cause goes back decades, and is the bedrock upon which Beijing has built relations with Arab countries.
It was 1955 when Beijing first backed Palestine, joining 29 states from across Asia, Africa and the Middle East in condemning “colonialism in all of its manifestations” at the Bandung Conference in Indonesia.
Around this time, under Chairman Mao, China began providing support and training to Palestinian groups, with some assistance continuing after his death and into the 1980s.
Then, China “saw it as a national liberation movement to fight against what they saw as Israeli colonisation”, said Dawn Murphy, an expert on China-Middle East relations and a professor at the US National War College. “Today, they still have concerns over the way Palestinians are being treated.”
In recent years, China has grown its footprint in the Middle East through heavy investment across the region, including infrastructure projects in Iraq, and an oil terminal in the key Jask port in Iran. It has even been constructing Egypt’s new capital outside of Cairo.
Diplomatically, it is an increasingly large player, too. Beijing has offered to aid reconstruction efforts in war-torn Syria, and it surprised the world earlier this year by swooping in to finish brokering a resumption of diplomatic ties between long-time regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.
What China ultimately wants is to de-escalate Israel-Palestine tensions in order to protect its civilians and investments across the Middle East, and to ensure oil imports from the region continue undisrupted.
China imports more than 70 per cent of the oil it uses, and most of it comes from Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Another reason China wants to remain on side with Arab nations is a simple one: “It’s just pure maths,” said Tuvia Gering, a researcher who specialises in China at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.
“There’s only one tiny Israel, and there’s only one country that supports it, which is the US,” he said. “Well, you have today 57 members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and that’s a lot of votes in the [UN] General Assembly.”
China shares a similar view with many of these countries – that “Israel is a colonialist outpost, put in place by the West to instigate wars and perpetuate its hegemony over the Middle East”, he said.
Chinese state media has amplified this message, situating the Israel-Palestine conflict within the broader rivalry between Beijing and Washington. America, the narrative goes, is “controlled by Jewish” people, and is bringing chaos to the world.
Ziwu Xiashi, one of China’s most popular nationalist commentators, is even labelling those who support Israel, an ally of the US, as being anti-China.
Such ideas have been expressed before by Chinese academics, party members, and influencers.
“US colonisation and massacre of the Native Americans and the Israeli massacre and colonisation of Palestine are the same – big brother and little brother,” Sima Nan, a popular Chinese pundit said last year. “Both built their country by trampling on the corpses of others.”
China’s anti-West sentiments can be traced back to what Beijing dubs the “century of humiliation” – a period running from 1839 to the 1940s when China felt it was subjugated by foreign powers, including the British.
Beijing’s take is that during that time, the people pulling the strings, “the black hand behind the curtain…were the Jews”, said Mr Gering.
The Chinese government often counters accusations of anti-Semitism by highlighting the fact thousands of Jews escaped the Holocaust by going to Shanghai, where they were allowed visa-free entry.
But what the ruling Chinese Communist Party typically fails to note is that it was not in charge at the time – the party came into power in 1949.
Then, Shanghai was controlled by the Nationalist government – which took over after the fall of China’s last imperial dynasty – and foreign powers that had carved out their own autonomous districts, including the UK, US and France.
Today, China does not recognise Judaism as a religion. In the central city of Kaifeng, there is a small community of Chinese Jews, descendants of those who settled more than a millennium ago along the Yellow River. Of the 1,000 or so people who claim Jewish heritage, only around 100 practise the faith, and they must do so in hiding given Beijing’s widespread crackdown on religion.
Anti-Semitism, mixed with anti-US sentiment, is now the norm for what the country’s 1.4 billion citizens are exposed to online.
Not everyone, though, buys the relentless Chinese propaganda over the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“I see this conflict as a serious humanitarian catastrophe,” said Mr He, a university student in northern China.
“Chinese state media is not talking about justice or human rights,” he said. “In their eyes, they support anything that is anti-Western, anti-democratic, and favourable to the Chinese Communist regime.”
But nuanced views appear to be getting drowned out by more incendiary ones, amplified on the Chinese internet.
“Israelis are trash; Jews are the most horrible race in the world!” wrote one person online.
Another said: “In this century, we need a Hitler to send these Jews to God.”
Ms Su, meanwhile, said on a recent live-stream that “Israel’s so-called advanced military capabilities have been completely exposed… [its] defence now is truly a broken house with leaks from all sides; it’s just missing someone to give it a good kick, isn’t it?”
With additional reporting by Jenny Pan