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HomeGeopolitical CompassThe LevantThe Honeymoon is Over’: Israel and China at 30 Years

The Honeymoon is Over’: Israel and China at 30 Years

Author: Jordyn Haime
Affiliation: Freelance journalist based in Taiwan, and Fulbright student fellow at National Chengchi University
College of Communication (Taipei)
Organization/Publisher: SupChina (New York-based, China-focused, for-profit startup news, information, and
business services platform)
Date/Place: May 20, 2022 / New York, USA
Type of Literature: Analysis
Word Count: 1500
Link: https://supchina.com/2022/05/20/the-honeymoon-is-over-israel-and-china-at-30-years/
Keywords: China, Israel, Diplomatic Relations, US, Middle East, Research and Development, US-China Trade War
Brief:
The US retreat from the Middle East has sharpened focus on China’s role in the region where it enjoys cordial relations with almost all conflicting players. While Beijing enjoys over $13 billion annual trade with Tel Aviv with a robust cooperation in research and development, China’s relations with Gulf nations plus Iran has only cemented in recent years with a special $400 billion package signed with Tehran. The author argues that Israel’s growing yet warmer relations with China may soon face a dead wall as the US mounts a challenge to Beijing in the wider Asia-Pacific region to contain the world’s most populous country which also boasts the second largest economy and military. Beijing and Tel Aviv are holding a wide range of events throughout 2022 to mark 30 years of diplomatic relations. Although Israel was the first Middle Eastern nation (and seventh non-Communist nation) to recognize China, the two only officially opened embassies in each others’ capitals in 1992. The sense of American pressure came to fore when Israel turned down a proposal by a consortium of Israeli and Chinese companies to construct a light rail project. The companies later filed a lawsuit blaming “illegal pressure from the United States.” “The U.S. opens its eyes in the morning and sees China,” the author notes, referring to flourishing Chinese firms in Israel, which are engaged from construction to agriculture.
American pressure led Israel and China to abandon their defense relations in the first decade of the 21st century, which had risen to over $2 billion. However, reciprocal defense trips resumed in 2011. Additionally, economic cooperation has flourished between the two countries while “innovation centers and parks, educational institutions, think tanks, and infrastructure projects took off as dual investment soared.” The bilateral relations saw a boom under former Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose terms were marked by numerous bilateral visits by high-profile leaders and the 2014 establishment of the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation and Cooperation. Netanyahu even called Israel’s relationship with China “a match made in heaven.” As the US intensified its moves to exit Afghanistan in order to meet China in the Asia- Pacific, Washington increased pressure on Tel Aviv after former President Donald Trump picked a trade war with China. The Biden administration has not reversed such policies and has continued to pressure Israel to limit its Chinese investments. The view from Israel is that its new prime minister Naftali Bennet is placating the US through Israel’s investment oversight committee that keeps the US apprised on major deals with China. And the view from China is that “U.S. interference is one of the biggest challenges in China-Israel cooperation today.”
By: Riyaz ul Khaliq, CIGA Non-resident Research Associate

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