When China announced a surprise deal restoring ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran this year, it signaled Beijing's desire to be a diplomatic heavyweight in the Middle East.

The crisis in Israel and Gaza threatens to expose the limits of that ambition.

After the March Saudi-Iran agreement, which China brokered, Chinese media hailed Beijing's rising profile in a region long dominated by Washington. Wang Yi, China's top diplomat, said the country would continue to play a constructive role in handling global "hotspot issues."