This posting has 3 background articles on the China-Israeli trade, diplomatic and military relationship and two on current commentary on the relationship
1) i24 news: The welcome rise of Israel’s sun in the east, October 2014;
2) Commentary: What Israel really wants from ties with China and India, September 2014;
3) The Diplomat: Why China Must Pay Attention to the Israel-Palestine Conflict, July 2014;
4) Xinhua: China, Israel beef up innovation co-operation, January 29th, 2015;
5) Jewish Chronicle: Ties with Asia blossom as Israel’s EU rows rage, January 22nd, 2015;
Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong (R rear) and Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (L) co-chair the first Meeting of China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation in Beijing, Jan. 29, 2015. Photo by Wang Ye / Xinhua
The welcome rise of Israel’s sun in the east
By Emmanuel Navon, i24 news
October 29, 2014
During a recent interview with The Times of Israel, former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer “warned” Israel not to develop too close a military relationship with China. There is nothing new about America’s opposition to Israel’s military ties with China. In 1992, the United States accused Israel of sharing American Patriot missiles technology with China. In 2000, Israel had to cancel the sale of its Falcon Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) to China because the US administration threatened to cut off its $2.8 billion military aid to Israel. What is new, however, is that Israel is not being “warned” about a specific military deal with China (there is currently no such deal in the pipeline), but about the fact that it is progressively rebalancing its foreign policy toward the Far East. The United States rightly feels that it is losing some of its influence on Israel. Israel’s ability to reduce its military and diplomatic dependency on America’s goodwill, however, is a welcome development.
The decline in America’s global reach is not just a theory. China is conducting joint military exercises with Iran; the United States is more eager than Iran to reach an agreement on the latter’s nuclear program; Russia is able to reconquer its former satellites despite US-led economic sanctions; ISIL is progressing in spite of US airstrikes, and Turkey is uncooperative in spite of US pressures; in Africa, China is more influential and powerful an actor than the United States. As for the US-Israel relationship, something has changed in America’s attitude. The Obama Administration keeps blaming Israel and absolving the Palestinian Authority (PA) for the absence of peace. During Operation Protective Edge this past summer, the Obama Administration tried to impose on Israel the pro-Hamas Qatari-Turkish ceasefire, while blocking missile shipments to Israel. As America is becoming less powerful and less reliable, Israel is correct to diversify its strategic alliances – especially with Asia.
Israel was the first Middle Eastern country to recognize Mao Zedong’s regime. When Communist China asked Israel to establish full diplomatic relations in 1954, however, Israel wavered for fear of alienating the United States. Israel’s concerns were unjustified since the Middle East policy of the Eisenhower Administration was openly pro-Arab, anyway. Indeed, the US itself established full diplomatic relations with Communist China in 1979. China and Israel started developing unofficial military ties in the late 1970s thanks to the “Sino-Soviet Split.” Today, Israel is China’s largest supplier of military technology and equipment after Russia. China is also Israel’s third largest trading partner, with an annual trade volume of $10 billion. China benefits from Israel’s expertise in military technology, solar energy, irrigation, and desalinization. In 2013, China won a $2 billion tender to build the strategic “Med-Red” railway linking the Ashdod and Eilat ports, and a $300 million joint research center was established between Tel Aviv and Tsinghua universities.
Israel is also deepening its strategic ties with India. The two were at odds during the Cold War, as India aligned with the Soviet Union. For years, the Congress Party refused to establish diplomatic relations with Israel for fear of alienating India’s Muslim minority at home and India’s diplomatic allies abroad. This policy was criticized by the Hindu nationalist opposition. With the end of the Cold War, India lost its Soviet backer. As the Indo-Pakistani rivalry deteriorated and Islamic terrorism spread, India turned to Israel for its military and technological expertise. The post-Cold War alliance between Israel and India received a new impetus with the electoral victory of the pro-Israel Hindu BJP party in 1998 and, more recently, in 2014. Today, India is Israel’s largest military market (accounting for nearly half of its worldwide military exports), and Israel’s second largest Asian trade partner after China. The new Indian government just announced that it would purchase $13.1 billion worth of Israeli military equipment and technology, rejecting a competing US offer.
The same goes for Japan, a country that had to downgrade its relations with Israel following the 1973 oil embargo imposed by the Arab members of OPEC. But with its chronic economic stagnation, Japan now understands that its growth depends less on Arab oil than on Israeli technology. Last week, Toyota ITC (Info Technology Center) held its first hackathon in Israel. Japan is purchasing Israeli technology for cyber-security, mobile apps, and robotics.
Israel’s deepening diplomatic, military and economic ties with Asia’s major powers constitute a welcome development. International relations are about power. The fact that the world’s emerging powers, who used to shun the Jewish state, now value their ties with Israel is a clear indication that Israel has reached an unprecedented level of economic and technological might. Never before in its history has Israel enjoyed such global clout.
Emmanuel Navon chairs the Political Science and Communication Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy
By Evelyn Gordon, Commentary
September 30, 2014
Writing in Foreign Affairs last week, Rory Miller made the classic mistake of using accurate facts to jump to an erroneous conclusion. He gleefully pronounced the failure of Israel’s effort to convert burgeoning economic ties with India and China into diplomatic capital, asserting that while Israel had expected these ties to “help secure greater international support” for its positions, in reality, China and India have both maintained staunchly pro-Palestinian policies. But though Miller is right about the Asian powers’ policies, he’s utterly wrong about the diplomatic gains Israel hoped to reap from these relationships.
For instance, Miller makes much of the fact that China still votes against Israel on every conceivable issue at the UN. But you’d have to be an idiot–which most senior Israeli politicians aren’t–to expect it to do otherwise.
Flipping China into the pro-Israel camp might be possible if and when it democratizes, since it’s one of the few countries where public opinion actually leans pro-Israel. Indeed, as the Australian paper Business Spectator noted this month, China was among the few places worldwide where Israel was actually winning the social media war during the summer’s fighting in Gaza. And it certainly makes sense for Israel to cultivate this public support in preparation for the day when democratization occurs. But right now, China remains a Communist dictatorship that sees America as its chief foreign-policy rival. Thus as long as Washington (thankfully) remains Israel’s main patron at the UN, Beijing will naturally take the anti-Israel side–not because it cares so passionately about the Palestinian cause (which, unlike Miller, I don’t believe it does), but because it cares about the anti-American cause.
India, despite growing ties with Washington, also has a long tradition of anti-Americanism, as well as a large Muslim minority. Thus New Delhi was never a likely candidate for UN support, either.
And in fact, Miller doesn’t cite any Israeli politician who actually espoused such unrealistic expectations. He simply assumes, on the basis of vague bromides like Naftali Bennett’s “diplomacy can follow economy,” that they musthave held such expectations.
But in reality, Israel is seeking a very different foreign-policy benefit from its trade ties with India and China–one it has never spelled out explicitly, for very good reason: What it wants is an economic insurance policy against European countries that it still officially labels as allies.
The EU currently accounts for about one-third of Israel’s exports. This constitutes a dangerous vulnerability, because Europe is the one place worldwide where Israel faces a real danger of economic boycotts and sanctions. Granted, few European leaders actually want this; they consider the economic relationship with Israel mutually beneficial. But European leaders are generally far more pro-Israel than their publics, and since European countries are democracies, public opinion matters.
To date, the public’s anti-Israel sentiment has produced only marginal sanctions, like those on Israeli exports from the West Bank (a minuscule percentage of Israel’s total exports). But Israel can’t rule out the possibility that public pressure will eventually produce more stringent sanctions if Jerusalem continues refusing to capitulate to EU demands on the Palestinian issue that are antithetical to its security. In short, Israel could someday face a devastating choice between its economic needs and its security needs–unless it can diversify its trade enough to be able to weather EU sanctions if and when they occur.
And that’s precisely what Israel seeks from China and India, two countries with a history of not allowing policy disagreements to interfere with business: If it can build up its Asian trade enough to reduce its economic dependence on Europe, it will be better placed to withstand European pressure to adopt policies inimical to its survival.
Whether Israel will succeed in this goal remains to be seen. But if it does, that will be a diplomatic gain of unparalleled importance–even if it never wins Chinese or Indian support in a single UN vote.
Beijing wants to remain neutral on the Israel-Palestine issue, but Chinese public opinion is increasingly polarized.
By Mu Chunshan, The Diplomat
July 19, 2014
Tensions in the Middle East have grown sharply as Israel stages air attacks (and now a ground assault) against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Compared to the high-profile reports on the crisis from the U.S. and other Western countries, China’s official comments are more low-profile and cautious. However, Chinese netizens have showed unusual passion about and interest in this distant, ongoing conflict. What is going on?
To understand netizen attitudes, we first have to understand China’s position on Israel-Palestine relations. For decades, China did not try to stay out of the conflict. Under Mao Zedong, China sided with Palestine. Former Chinese leaders such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping had almost unconditional support for the revolutionary cause led by Yasser Arafat, who was called “an old friend of the Chinese people.” The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) obtained both funds and weapons from China.
The Palestinian case was a rare example of China directly interfering with the affairs of the Middle East. Aside from being an example of China’s idealist foreign policy during this period, support for Palestine also represented Beijing’s political calculations. As Palestine had widespread support from other Arab countries, China’s stance helped it win influence in the third world. Under these circumstances, China was unwilling to accept positive overtures from Israel. Even though Israel was the first country in the Middle East to acknowledge the founding of PRC, the two countries would not establish official diplomatic relations until 1992.
During the 1980s, China began to abandon ideologically-driven diplomacy as part of its reform and opening process. China gradually began to draw closer to Israel. The reason is quite simple: Israel’s defense technology was attractive to China. Israel’s advanced technology and investments also were a good match with China’s developmental needs. Today, China-Israel military exchanges and economic cooperation have become two major pillars for bilateral relations. At the same time, China’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has changed from unilateral condemnation of Israel to a neutral stance. Palestine was not happy, but had no choice but to accept the change.
Nowadays, China is still gradually revising and improving its diplomatic policies. With an increasing focus on diplomacy in the Middle East, China is increasingly called on to take a stand on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Interestingly, although the Chinese government has not taken any action regarding the current crisis, public opinion has solidified into two distinct groups. In online forums, one side (comprised mostly of Muslims) condemns Israel. They have begun a movement calling on China to be more like Western countries that freely express anger over the attack on Gaza. On the other side of the debate are netizens who support Israel (mostly non-Muslims). Their comments emphasize their deep disgust for extremism and terrorism; they have even taken to attacking anyone who opposes Israel’s military operations as a terrorist sympathizer. These two groups within China have been having an increasingly heated debate over a conflict taking place thousands of miles away in the Middle East. Israel and Palestine could never have expected this when they began their conflict.
Of course, there are also some people who occupy the middle ground, supporting Israel’s right to safeguard security while opposing excessive killing. This group’s comments match the Chinese government’s official statements on the Israel-Palestine conflict. But just as the Chinese government’s neutral voice does not play a dominant role in global media coverage on Israel-Palestine conflict, so China’s neutral commenters are not representative of internet opinion.
The online debate suggests that China has a vested interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict. The war of words between Chinese netizens touches on fractures within China itself.
Among the group that opposes Israel’s attack on Gaza, there have been calls for Chinese and other media outlets to provide more coverage of the disaster in Gaza. Some have even warned of a “Jewish conspiracy” that China must avoid. Some Muslim commenters further argue that all Muslims in the world should unite as one family.
The Chinese delegation on the annual Jerusalem march, September 2013
By contrast, the group that supports Israel argues that the terrorist threats faced by China are controlled and implemented by extremist groups like Hamas. They believe such extremist groups are connected to Chinese terror cells, and may be responsible for luring in a small number of Chinese Muslims. They argue that Israel’s intense attack on this group will help China’s own fight against terrorism.
Though the Chinese government has tried to keep a low-profile and keep its diplomacy balanced between Israel and Palestine, China also faces threats from terrorism and extremism. Thus it cannot stay out of the conflict completely. The security of western China is closely connected with the security of the Middle East. More seriously, Chinese public opinion has already become involved in this unexpected crisis. Online comments from netizens are more than just idle talk: they represent different expectations and hopes for China’s social governance and diplomatic policies. China’s government, media, and society need to face this reality and find a way to deal with the problem.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is quite complex. The back-and-forth conflict has raged for decades and cannot be described in simplistic terms as “just” or “unjust.” It’s dangerous that Chinese public opinion has become so extreme and partisan. As a country with a large Muslim population, China needs to pay attention to public debate about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The online debate can be a starting point for understanding the underlying social issues within China itself.
China is concerned about Chinese Muslims becoming “Middle Easternized”: adopting extremist ideology wherein they believe the Middle East is their true home. Instead, China wants its citizens to think of themselves as Chinese first and Muslim second. But online comments about the crisis in Gaza show this effort hasn’t been entirely successful.
Meanwhile, China also has to avoid excessively praising Israel’s attack on terrorism. Otherwise Israel’s anti-Hamas operation might become a tool for those who wish to attack all Muslims. Anti-terrorist sentiment that goes too far and becomes anti-Muslim is dangerous for China domestically, and could also damage China’s political and economic interests in the Middle East.
China, Israel beef up innovation co-operation
By Xinhua news agency
January 29, 2015
BEIJING, J — China and Israel signed a three-year action plan on innovation co-operation on Thursday.
The plan was signed by Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong and Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman during the 1st Meeting of China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation in Beijing.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both sent congratulatory messages to the meeting.
In the message, Li said China is strengthening innovation co-operation internationally and trying to better its connection with global innovation networks, which will provide opportunities and potential for China-Israel innovation cooperation.
He hoped that the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation will contribute to the innovative development of the two countries as well as their people’s benefit.
Netanyahu said the establishment of the committee is an important milestone, which combines Israel’s innovative spirit with China’s innovation strategy and will greatly promote bilateral cooperation.
Liu said the committee will inject new vigor into bilateral relations by pushing forward innovation cooperation in science and technology, education, culture, health and local affairs.
She called on the two sides to implement the three-year action plan on innovation cooperation, so as to advance mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.
Lieberman said Israel will work with China to give full play to the role of the committee, so as to push for new progress in Israel-China innovation cooperation.
After the meeting, Liu and Lieberman jointly inaugurated China-Israel Changzhou Innovation Park, which is located in east China’s Jiangsu Province.
They also witnessed the signing of a number of co-operative documents, covering science and technology, higher education and culture.
By Anshel Pfeffer, Jewish Chronicle
January 22, 2015
Israel’s ties with the Far East are receiving a major boost just as its relations with Europe are becoming ever-more strained.
The arrival of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Jerusalem on Sunday was just the latest sign of this trend.
Mr Abe, who met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and agreed to work with him on counter-terrorism, was leading a delegation of 100 Japanese business leaders on a tour of the region.
Israelis were pleased with Mr Abe’s condemnation of the terrorism in France. Mr Abe said that such attacks “cannot be tolerated whatever reasons there may be” and called for any procedures against Israel at the International Criminal Court to be delayed. He also urged Israel to release NIS 500,000 in Palestinian tax duties which Israel froze in response to the Palestinian Authority’s decision to apply to the ICC.
At the Sunday cabinet meeting, Mr Netanyahu linked the developments in Europe to Israel’s ties with Asia. “Western Europe is undergoing a wave of Islamisation, antisemitism and anti-Zionism,” he said, adding that Israel will “ensure we will have varied markets around the world”. Last year, Israel did more trade with Asia than with the United States, although the European Union remains its biggest trading partner.
Israel’s warming relationship with Japan follows a rapid improvement in its ties with India in the wake of the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year. Mr Modi, who is seen as extremely pro-Israel and has already brought about a change in the way India votes in international forums, refused to support an investigation against Israel at the UN Human Rights Council and has done major deals to acquire Israeli missiles.
Israel has also increased its trade with China, which Mr Netanyahu visited in 2013. Those ties have yet to yield diplomatic benefits, however, with the Chinese leadership still supportive of Iran in the P5+1 talks.
Meanwhile, Israel’s relations with some EU countries have continued to deteriorate. Last week, reports emerged that French President François Hollande had asked Mr Netanyahu not to attend the unity march in Paris – barely a week after France had voted in favour of the Palestinian proposal for a deadline on statehood at the UN Security Council.
Over the weekend, Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Margot Walstrom, lambasted Israel in its reaction to her country’s decision last year to recognise Palestine. According to Ms Walstrom, Israel’s policy was “very aggressive” and “not only angered us but the Americans as well and everyone else involved”. Ms Walstrom cancelled a visit to the region after Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s office refused to schedule a meeting between them.
However, senior diplomats have sought to play down the tensions. They cite Germany’s pledge to sell Israel new missile boats and subsidise 25 per cent of the deal. They also note Israel’s strategic ties with Britain, which “have never been stronger than they currently are under David Cameron”.
Israel does not publish the names of most of the foreign countries which buy its military products.
from Wikipedia: China has looked to Israel for the arms and technology it cannot acquire from the United States and Russia. Israel is now China’s second-largest foreign supplier of arms (following Russia). China has purchased a wide array of military equipment and technology, including communications satellites.Growing military cooperation and trade has softened China’s historic anti-Israeli policy.China is a vital market for Israel’s military industry and arms manufacturers. Israel has also limited its cooperation with the Republic of China (Taiwan) in order to foster closer ties with the People’s Republic of China.
The US Defense Intelligence Agency compiled evidence that Israel had transferred missile, laser and aircraft technology to China in the 1990s. Israel was set to sell China the Phalcon, an airborne early-warning radar system, until it was forced by the United States to cancel the deal.
A Tel Aviv court has rejected a petition to reveal documentation of arms exports to the Hutu government in the ’90s.
By Uri Misgav, Haaretz, January 03, 2015