Panda on the olive tree (part III)
At a cabinet meeting in September 2012, Netanyahu urged his ministers to increase their visits to China while reducing their international travel to all other locations due to budget constraints. Israel and China signed a 10-year multiple-entry visa agreement in 2016. Under the new program, Chinese businessmen and tourists can enter Israel multiple times with the same visa. The same goes for Israeli citizens visiting China. With the new visa policy, China quickly became Israel’s fastest source of tourists in 2017, when, for the first time, the number of Chinese tourists surpassed 100,000, doubling the figure for 2015. Both parties hope to increase the number of Chinese tourists to 400,000 over the next five years, and the Israel Tourism Bureau is training Mandarin-speaking tour guides.
To facilitate travel, direct flights have been set up. In 2018, more than a dozen weekly non-stop flights between Tel Aviv and five Chinese cities – Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu – were operated by Cathay Pacific, Air China / El Al, Hainan Airlines and Sichuan Airlines. Hainan Airlines recently planned a new direct flight between Tel Aviv and Shenzhen.
Growing Chinese investments in critical Israeli infrastructure, particularly the port of Haifa, have sounded alarm bells in the United States. Haifa is where the U.S. Sixth Fleet regularly visits and is home to the Israeli nuclear submarine force. The United States suspects that China may monitor the entrance to the port’s military facilities in the future. Since 2017, the new port of Haifa has become an issue in the context of the US-China trade war. This could quickly become as big a problem as the sale of the Phalcon 2000 surveillance planes to China. Critics of the new Haifa port argue that allowing Beijing to gain a foothold in such a strategically important location could compromise Israeli intelligence assets and even cause US military ships to avoid docking in Haifa altogether. However, some Israeli officials counter that the concerns are overblown. During their visits to Israel in January and March 2019, respectively, John Bolton, then Trump’s national security adviser, and then Secretary of State Pompeo, warned Israel of the security risks associated with Chinese investments. They threatened to cut security cooperation between the United States and Israel. On the other hand, amid tensions between China and South Korea in 2016-2017 over the US deployment of THAAD in South Korea, China’s special envoy to the Korean Peninsula said that “China supported South Korea’s efforts to defend itself from the North Korean threat. , if South Korea introduced the weapons system from Europe or Israel, China would have no problem. So Chinese officials assume that the real target of the US missile defense system in South Korea is China; they don’t see Israel with such suspicion.
Growing Chinese investments in critical Israeli infrastructure, particularly the port of Haifa, have sounded alarm bells in the United States. Haifa is where the U.S. 6th Fleet regularly visits and is home to the Israeli nuclear submarine force
Regarding China’s relations with other states in the Arab world, China established diplomatic relations with the twenty-two Arab countries between 1956 and 1990 before doing so with Israel in 1992. The Arab Policy Document of China from 2016 said China strongly supports the Arab national liberation movement. , firmly supports the struggle of Arab countries to defend sovereignty and territorial integrity, pursue and safeguard national interests and combat interference and external aggression, and firmly support the cause of Arab countries for the development of the national economy and the building of countries. In the Arab-Israeli conflict, China will stand alongside the Arab nations. Although the Sino-Israeli relationship is described as a “comprehensive innovative partnership” by both sides, China has forged “comprehensive strategic partnerships” – the highest level of its diplomatic hierarchy – with Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the Middle East. .
The Israeli government has attempted to create a thoughtful balance between trade and national security interests, prohibiting trade with China in most military goods while welcoming investment in infrastructure and technology. China is extremely interested in civilian technologies such as healthcare, agriculture, fintech, mobility and advanced manufacturing. In these areas of Israeli strength, Chinese companies are as free to purchase products and services as they are throughout the West, including the United States.
Israel, like other third parties involved in major power competition, will experience painful times as the US-China rivalry intensifies. In 2000, when Israel faced pressure from the United States regarding its arms sales to China, its reaction was relatively simple: give in to American coercion and cancel the sales. Today, as China has become a significant power with increased investment in Israel, it is no longer so easy for Israel to simply ignore Chinese interests. Some scholars believe that Israel does not yet have a systematic Chinese policy, and its ability to develop a fully independent Chinese policy is not yet clear. Instead, he seems to have developed “an opportunistic policy”, trying to maximize his advantages by maneuvering between the two great powers. He adopts a hedging strategy and does not put all the eggs in one basket. With the Chinese market and capital, Israel’s high-tech industries, and the innovative spirit of both countries, Sino-Israel relations have plenty of room to develop.
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