China urges U.S. to exercise restraint against Houthi rebels as Red Sea conflict poses threat to Beijing’s economic and diplomatic interests
By Richard Brown // Jan 19, 2024

China has issued a warning to the United States, urging restraint in its actions against Houthi rebels in Yemen as the conflict in the Red Sea intensifies, posing potential threat to Beijing's economic and diplomatic interests.

The Houthis' persistent campaign to disrupt maritime traffic through crucial Middle East waterways, such as the Suez Canal and Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, raises significant concerns for China, which heavily relies on these routes to transport its products to European markets.

China's economic stakes in the region are notably high, as it is more dependent than the U.S. on oil and gas imports from countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Qatar. (Related: Beijing’s shipping firm halts Israel operations despite strong ties with Houthi backer Tehran amid rising Red Sea tensions.)

The escalating tensions in the Red Sea have prompted China to emphasize the importance of all relevant parties exercising calm and restraint to prevent further escalation of the conflict.

Beijing's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mao Ning, highlighted China's apprehension. "China is concerned about the escalating tension in the Red Sea and calls on relevant parties to exercise calm and restraint to prevent the conflict from escalating," Mao said. He further urged all parties involved to play a constructive and responsible role in maintaining the safety and stability of the Red Sea, aligning with the common interests of the international community.

Despite the escalating situation, China has chosen not to join the U.S.-led coalition known as Operation Prosperity Guardian, which commenced efforts to police the Red Sea last month. This decision underscores China's diplomatic approach to conflict resolution, advocating for peaceful dialogue and cooperation.

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On a broader scale, the intensifying military exchanges between the U.S. and the Houthi rebels pose challenges to China's diplomatic interests in the Middle East.

In a surprising move last spring, Beijing successfully brokered a normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the primary military supporter of the Houthi rebels. The agreement was partly based on Iran committing to China to curtail military supplies to the Yemeni militia and restrain Houthi attacks on Saudi and international targets.

However, recent developments indicate a shift in Iran's stance, with Tehran praising the Houthi rebels' operations in the Red Sea.

Reports suggest that Iran's elite military unit, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has embedded personnel among the Yemeni militia forces.

Chinese media: U.S. and U.K have underestimated the Houthi rebels

Meanwhile, Chinese state-run media warned that both the U.S. and U.K. have underestimated the Houthi rebels in Yemen amid the ongoing conflict in the Red Sea. In a comprehensive op-ed, the state-run Global Times critiqued recent military actions taken by the U.S. and the U.K. against the Houthis, cautioning of potential retaliatory measures.

The editorial argued that the recent military operations carried out against Houthi targets in Yemen were deemed "unsatisfactory" as they failed to curtail Houthi attacks on shipping.

The Global Times highlighted a specific incident where a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile targeted a U.S.-owned and operated cargo ship, questioning the rationale behind the escalation.

The op-ed emphasized the escalating cycle of retaliation and counter-retaliation in the Red Sea, underscoring that both the U.S. and the U.K. had miscalculated the military capabilities of the Houthi militants.

In December, officials from the U.S., European Union, and United Nations confirmed Houthi-led attacks in the Red Sea, including assaults on commercial vessels from various nations.

Over the past weeks, the U.S. and U.K. military forces executed multiple attacks against the Houthi rebels in the Red Sea and Yemen, drawing criticism from China.

On January 11, U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed additional strikes against the Houthi rebels with backing from Australia, Bahrain, Canada and the Netherlands. Biden asserted that these strikes were in response to unprecedented Houthi attacks on international maritime vessels in the Red Sea that endanger personnel, civilian mariners and global trade.

Watch this video showing Houthi missiles hitting an American warship.

This video is from the channel The Prisoner on

More related stories:

Houthi rebel attacks prompt British Petroleum to pause all fuel shipments in Red Sea

Major shipping giants HALT Red Sea route following Houthi attacks on shipping vessels

West steps up activities in Red Sea as Iran warns against U.S. adventurism

Sources include:

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