The growing ties between China and Israel

A Quiet Transformation in China’s Approach to Israel

Carice Witte, JCPA

  • In recent years, the world has witnessed China’s growing involvement in the international arena – whether through its veto in the UN Security Council, its military conducting anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and contributing to peacekeeping missions in Africa and the Middle East, buying U.S. and EU debt, or its declaration that the South China Sea is an integral part of China.
  • In the minds of the Chinese, Jews retain a highly respected status as a people who have survived over the millennia against all odds and have attained achievements that belie their miniscule numbers. The Chinese take great pride in Shanghai’s status as one of the only cities in the world that accepted Jewish refugees during World War II.
  • In the 12th Five-Year Plan, published in 2011, China’s leadership announced a national intention to raise the country from being the world’s factory to becoming a leading innovator. This new focus led the Chinese to seek the potential contribution of Israel – the “Start-Up Nation.”
  • Interactions between China and Israel had risen significantly over the years but had remained largely “off the record,” due to the Arab nations’ strong influence on the PRC leadership’s public approach to Israel. In 2011 this began to change. Five formally acknowledged Israel Studies Programs were established across China, and in September, China’s most powerful political body – the Communist Party – expressed a formal interest in Israel’s political echelons in a public fashion by participating in the first-ever China-Israel Strategy and Security Symposium at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
  • Despite its close ties with the Arab world, China was caught completely off guard by the Arab Spring. They were devastated by the $20 billion in losses they suffered with the fall of Gaddafi, hammering home their lack of understanding of the Middle East. In their search for accurate and reliable information, leading academics began to seek out Israel, an island of stability whose geographic proximity to the Arab Spring offers unique access.
Carice Witte, SIGNAL’s founder and executive director, is a graduate of Yale University in East Asian Studies with a focus on China and has served as President of the Yale Club of Israel for the past eight years. After a 20-year entrepreneurial career in Israeli high tech and international real estate, Witte merged a commitment to Israel, respect for China, and belief that academia can provide a key to discovering creative approaches leading to much needed solutions by establishing SIGNAL, Sino-Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership (??????????), to enhance strategic, diplomatic, cultural, and economic relationships between China and Israel through academia.  

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April 5, 2012 | 10 Comments »

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  1. I agree with Arnold. When I visited Kaifeng in central China four years ago, as well as visiting the tiny remnant of the Jewish community, we went to the University. There they have a section devoted to the study of Judaism and Israel, well supplied with literature. There is a real interest in Israel among the younger educated Chinese. Israel should take advantage of it.

  2. @ Joe Hamilton:
    Well said Joe.

    I’m not keen on generalizing, but I have worked alongside many Chinese, and have found them personable, friendly, and very intelligent… At higher levels of management, I’m not so sure, but then I’m not sure about ANYONE at a higher level of management, however way you define “management”.

  3. When I was a 16-year-old kid in the summer of 1950, I got a job using a bicycle to deliver send-out food orders for a Chinese restaurant on Sheridan Road up in the north side of Chicago near Lake Michigan. I think I may have been the only white kid in Chicago at that time who worked for the Chinese, and I’m still surprised they hired me. (I think it was only because they needed a delivery boy who spoke everyday English and who knew the neighborhood.) The Chinese men for whom I worked were Cantonese, the prevailing culture in the southern part of that huge, ancient and unique civilization, and they were the first Chinese with whom I ever had daily contact.

    Their interests were totally focused on business, although they all shared a peculiar passion for gambling money on games that were unfamiliar to me and most other non-Chinese. Even though they were small-time capitalists, they seemed to share a certain pride in Mao’s newly-reunited and obviously powerful China. They knew I was Jewish, and I could tell from the questions I was asked that they respected us for being part of an ancient people that had survived thousands of years. They thought most of us were businessmen like themselves, or genius scientists like Einstein. But unlike many westerners, they respected the intersect of cultural traits that could produce such people. It was some years later before I learned that some long-ago groups of Jews had migrated to China along the trans-Asian trading routes, had settled there, married into their vast civilization and assimilated.

    Unlike certain other peoples of the Far East, Chinese are not devious. They tell you exactly what’s on their minds. So I think they can be trusted, probably a lot more so than many Americans I have encountered in my long life. We’ve also become lazy. I think Chinese stay industrious. If that’s true, then they Chinese will continue capturing and keeping our money.

    I don’t think they have any interest in conquering the world. But they certainly intend to make money from it. And they are smart, tough, and patient enough to play the Great Game, and to stay in the game in a way the Brits never could do as they began losing their overseas empire.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  4. I saw a video of a Chinese speaking reporter for a Jewish American weekly. It was taped 3-4 years ago on a Sunday in a park in Shanghai. The majority of Chinese who were all randomly approached actually weren’t familiar with “Jews”. Those who had an opinion were unanimously positive mentioning such qualities they associated with Jews as good in business and highly intelligent. Several mentioned their admiration for Albert Einstein. From that video and the accompanying written story,it appeared the traditional anti-semitism of the Christian world and Muslim world didn’t exist in China.The Chinese who have a mean IQ slightly higher than Caucasian Christians don’t feel threatened by Ashkenazi Jews who have the highest mean IQ in the world by far.They have had a similar history in countries outside of China as Jews. Although they have never suffered the persecution Jews have, like Jews Chinese have been prominent in the business communities in other Asian countries, at times drawing the wrath of the less intelligent native population. They did suffer persecution in Indonesia where native Indonesians are members of the “religion of peace”. I have thought for years if Israel had openly traded with China and told the US to go screw themselves the profits from sales of weaponry and other technologies to China would have resulted in profits double or triple the amount of yearly “aid” which is mainly credits to buy US made weapons. Of course, the financial assistance has resulted in US governments treating Israel like a colony of the US. The current vile, stupid, Jew hater in the White House is the worst but every president has secretly favored the Arabs mainly because of oil. The unqualified ,totally incompetent bi–h who is secretary of state is an antisemite according to Dick Morris President Clinton’s former political adviser. The previous incompetent b—h who was secretary of state during Bush’s last term also treated Israeli leaders as puppets of the US. Rice who I’m sure became US secretary of State mainly because of one particular characteristic (skin color) thought so little of Israeli leaders she would yell at them and demand they jeopardize the safety of Israeli Jews. Blacks in the US may be the most antisemitic of all racial or ethnic groups in the US (not counting US citizens of Arab descent). So the US-Israeli association although it is almost universally thought of as beneficial to Israel, has actually harmed Israel. The Israelis should have sought a closer relationship with China many years ago. If anyone doubts the rampant antisemitism in the US black community look at the “church” the incompetent fool Obama attended for 20 years in Chicago. The phony “reverend” of the church is a delusional ,mentally ill vile Jew hater. The district in Chicago where Obama won his first election is not coincidentally the home of Louis Farrakahn a more paranoid hater of Jews and whites in general than Reverend Wright.Of course, if a white presidential candidate had associations with white racists, the US media would tear him or her apart and they would never stand a chance of election.

  5. When I was in college I took a Taiwanese graduate student under my wing. I was a a senior undergraduate and we were both in an advanced seminar open to advanced undergraduates and graduate students. Despite his graduate student status, he was new to the U.S. and struggling in English. I would let him copy my notes and would help him understand what was going on.

    One time, he invited me over to dinner at his house that he shared with another graduate student from Taiwan.

    He was so grateful for my help, he gave me a gift of Moshe Dayan’s biography–all in Chinese. It was so funny–pictures of the famed General with the eyepatch–and every word in Chinese. Somewhere I still have it.

    This article reminded me of that experience. Although I know the graduate student friend of mine was from Taiwan, I suppose he might have been ethnically Chinese, and spoke Chinese as his native language. I was struck at the time by the fascination he and, apparently, his countrymen, had for the Israeli figure. I suspect there might be a lot of admiration for Israel and its accomplishments in that part of the world, particularly when you consider the industriousness and innovation in countries like China, Taiwan, Singapore and so forth. They don’t have the western or Islamic tradition of anti-semitism to burden them, either.

    It’s important that Israel continue to develop its relationship and trade with countries like China, Taiwan, Singapore, India and others.

  6. @ yamit82:
    Yes… Right now anything sounds more trustworthy than Obama and his State Department. And the Chinese don’t have 2000 years of Jew-hating mythology behind them.

  7. @ Laura:

    Yes China can’t be trusted and neither can anyone trust Israel. Nations act out of their perceived interests which have no relationship to morality and ethics one might expect from individuals. Then the question to you is what countries might you consider trustworthy?

    The game is control of energy supply and regions of influence. Establishing Economic zones and extending market penetration for goods and services including military transfers and where possible enforcement and protection of those areas thru respective militaries.

    China does not need a world war she can bury America just by dumping the 1.3 trillion dollars of American debt, absorb the loss and move on. America by debasing the Dollar and the resultant devaluation is screwing the Chinese in any event and it’s only a matter of time before the Chinese decide to bite the bullet and do it. Instead of the Chinese selling to America they can sell to the rest of the world who pay their debts and their own people.


  8. Sino-Israel relations took a turn for the worse, however, when Israel adhered to a U.S. mandate to renege on a major sale in 1999 of the Phalcon, a sophisticated reconnaissance aircraft that would allow the Chinese to gather intelligence at a distance,8 and again in 2004, when Israel began repairs and upgrades on the Harpy drones, laser-guided unmanned aircraft Israel had sold to China in 1994. Israel eventually succumbed to U.S. pressure, backing out of its earlier agreements with the PRC.

    Israel’s China-U.S. weapons dilemma

    Israel lost many times over the amt of aid America extends to Israel. It was a cowardly, myopic appeasement to American dictates and placed American internal interests over our own. We have lost thousands of good paying jobs and an unknown increase in of GDP. For countries like russia China and India relations are based only on interests and we give them till now no strong incentitive to support us over the Arabs. In industrial production no modern enterprise will source any component that does not have a second or even a third source of supply. The same with Isrel we put if not all, most of our eggs in the American basket and we are continually paying a heavy ( I maintain we pay much too heavy) price for our stupid and myopic policies. Just imagine if we hadn’t surrendered to American demands and completed our obligations to the Chinese?

    Israel is committed to obtaining U.S. approval for the sale of any system that includes American components or know-how. However an Israeli official told UPI there is “nothing American” in those drones.

    Israel sold the Lavie to the Chinese and as far back as 2002 were second only to Russia in military sales and technology transfers to China. Much of today’s military sales to China today are classified and off the books so as to avoid American scrutiny and veto.

    If anyone is ever in Bejing visit the Israeli embassy, which dwarfs any of our Embassies including the one in Washington.

    Israeli embassy in China photos

    Israeli ambassadors residence in Bejing

  9. (Ted, your posted “click here” did not work. I had to track down the full article by googling Carice Witte and JCPA.)

    A strong and friendly relationship between Israel and China — possibly even a military alliance one day — probably would be even more significant to the Jewish state than its present relationship with the USA. Recognizing realities, the US role in the Middle East will wind down significantly when the US military forces leave Afghanistan, and as burgeoning new oil and gas production in North America greatly reduces US dependence on Arab sources in the Middle East.

    Unlike the whole of western society, China, along with Japan and India, has no historical record of anti-semitism. And it is significant that China throughout most of its 4,000 year history has enjoyed mostly stable governance and culture. The evidence that Carice Witte has gathered shows increasing and positive interest in Jews in general and Israel in particular. Their interest at present is cultural and economic. The day will surely come when a stable and strong Israel in the otherwise unstable and feverishly explosive Middle East could prove a most useful asset to China in aiding that massive state and nation to defend its interests in far southwestern Asia.

    Never forget that some congruence of China, Japan, India and Russia will have overlordship of Asia and — through Russia — Eurasia. They will be the winning players, and Israel must never again put its future and fate in the hands of weak and decaying empires.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI