SIGNAL Note
China’s Image in the Western Media


With the rise of the People’s Republic of China, many Western academics, professionals and policymakers have become increasingly interested in, and concerned about, China’s intentions. China’s integration into a traditionally Western-dominated global order is liable to arouse Western suspicions, while President Xi Jinping has introduced a vision of global governance that is characterized by the harmonious co-existence of the dominant powers. This newly articulated idea was summarized by President Xi in a meeting with the former American president Barack Obama: the nature of relations between the great powers would entail, “no conflicts or confrontations, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation.”1

But positive rhetoric aside, there are deep cultural differences between Western countries and China that cannot be papered over by reassuring statements, no matter how powerful or high the source. Likewise, deeply held suspicions of Chinese intentions cause Westerners to misinterpret legitimate Chinese concerns and achievements, and Western observers, afraid of and confused by China, continue to view China as a global competitor, if not a threat.

  1. Qi Hao.“China Debates the ‘New Type of Great Power Relations”, The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 2015, 349–370

Global Governance and Political Islam

In the study of Israel’s Perspective on Xi Jinping Thought and its implications for the Middle East, SIGNAL’s board member, Prof. Ori Goldberg, of IDC Herzliya College in Israel, examines Political Islam and its impact on global governance.

The withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA, the so-called nuclear agreement with Iran, has directed attention to a struggle taking place within the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is, in fact, a struggle taking place within political Islam. The developments in Iran and across political Islam all over the world represent an opportunity for a profound change in world governance. Conventional wisdom on the subject is faltering. The world grows more divided and aggressive. This aggression is significantly routed in fear, and one of the most frightening forces on the global stage today is political Islam. Applying some basic concepts from Xi Jinping Thought, most prominently the dialectical drive of a principal contradiction, I would like to consider the challenges and opportunities offered by engagement with political Islam.

This term, “political Islam”, is not easy to define. I use it broadly, referring to all movements and political parties that consider Islam to be a foundation (not necessarily “the” foundation, but certainly a significant one) of their political views and practices. The Islamic Republic of Iran is the most sophisticated and complex example of political Islam. It is the only state in the Muslim world that is directly controlled by members of the clergy. While there are differences between Shi’i Iran and the Sunni Muslim world, I suggest that developments in Iran reflect a discernible difference between two global strands of political Islam.

Intercultural Communication for Effective International Relations in the ‘New Era’

Introduction
President Xi Jinping has communicated China’s transformation by explaining it has moved from tao guang yang hui (hide brightness, nourish obscurity)1 to fen fa you wei (striving for achievement) – ushering in a ‘New Era.’ These Sino-centric terms are deeply embedded in Chinese culture and represent a kind of communication that is difficult for the West to interpret and understand. In fact, culture plays a critical role in shaping and defining each nation’s communication.

While China expresses a commitment to ‘peaceful coexistence,’ its swift rise and increased assertiveness have invoked ambivalence amongst members of the international community. Its newfound great power status implies a transformation that could have widespread implications for a nation that has the economic resources to build a competitive military to back its interest in reshaping global governance. In recent years the so-called ‘Thucydides Trap’ -which holds that when a rising power challenges an existing hegemon, conflict is inevitable- has become ubiquitous in western media. In 2012, Xi Jinping proposed an alternative to this narrative; ‘a new type of great power relations.’ The framework consists of three central ideas: no conflict or confrontation, mutual respect for one another’s core interests, and a shift from ‘zero-sum’ thinking to ‘win-win’ cooperation.2 While the concept has aided in altering old mindsets; challenging realist thinking, and breaking away from the traditional cold war mentality, America has been reluctant to embrace this new geopolitical framework.

  1. 阎学通. “从韬光养晦到奋发有为.” 国际政治科学 4 (2014): 1-35. (Yan Xuetong, “From taoguang yanghui to fenfa you wei”, Journal of International Political Science)
  2. Ferguson, R. James, and Rosita Dellios. The Politics and Philosophy of Chinese Power: The Timeless and the Timely. Lexington Books, 2016.

The Power of Perception and Image in Global Governance and Great Power Relations


Why does so much of the world not perceive China as it sees itself? Why have its efforts to improve its image abroad not seen a significant return on investment? And, what can be done to convey a more accurate picture of China?

Introduction
The Peoples Republic of China considers itself a benevolent nation that seeks the well-being of the world. It knows that only a win-win approach can lead to a global community where all parties build on each other’s success to provide a better life for their children and a prosperous future for all societies.1 While America discusses erecting walls and putting ‘America first,’ China has announced it will play an increasingly positive role in global governance. Under the leadership of President Xi China speaks of championing globalization, climate change, and international trade- all in an effort to build a community of a shared future for all mankind.

  1. Qi Hao.“China Debates the ‘New Type of Great Power Relations”, The Chinese Journal of International Politics, 2015, 349–370

Building a shared future through Electricity connectivity


President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech at the United Nations (UN) in Geneva in January 2017 titled “Work Together to Build a Community with Shared Future for Mankind”, has been adopted as a guiding philosophy for China’s approach to global challenges and global governance. Essential to President Xi’s “community with a shared future” is the goal of improving people’s lives.

The idea stresses promoting trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, making economic globalization more open, inclusive, and balanced so that its benefits are shared by all. 1 Furthermore, the idea holds that humans should be kind to the environment, cooperate to tackle climate change and protect the planet for the sake of humanity’s survival. Inherent in the concept of a Community for a Shared Future is interconnectivity. The logic behind this is that projects that expand interconnectivity also drive regional economic development. Through the Euroasia Interconnector, Israel is advancing both the conceptual and practical intent of a Community for a Shared Future cooperating with its European neighbors in the field of electricity.

Europe has its own vision for a community with a shared future where interconnectivity is the goal. One area where this vision is expressed is through PCI’s or Projects of Common Interest. PCI’s are intended to help the EU achieve its energy policy and climate objectives: affordable, secure and sustainable energy for all citizens, and the long-term decarbonization of the economy in accordance with the Paris Agreement.2 The EuroAsia Interconnector is recognized as a cross-border project that links the energy systems of EU countries.

  1. “China Keywords: Community with Shared Future for Mankind”, Xinhua, http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-01/24/c_136921370.htm, (January 24, 2018)
  2. “Questions and answers on the projects of common interest (PCIs) in energy and the electricity interconnection target”, European Commission Fact Sheet, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-17-4708_en.htm, (November 24th, 2017)

An Israeli Perspective on President Xi’s Initiative of Building a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind


Israel’s Perspective on Xi Jinping Thought and its implications for the Middle East involves examining four key areas from the Israeli perspective: Global Governance, Great Power Relations, the BRI, and A Community for a Shared Future.

When examining the topic, Xi Jinping Thought on- A Community for a Shared Future one cannot help but recognize echoes of ancient Jewish teaching. Within Jewish thought and tradition is the concept of ‘Tikkun Olam,’ repairing the world – helping to improve one’s community and society as well as the wider world.

This parallel between ancient Jewish thought and Xi Jinping thought reminds us that the similarities between the Jews and the Chinese run deep and exist on both philosophical and practical levels. From the time of its founding, the modern state of Israel has been committed to the goal expressed by President Xi of building a community for a shared future. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, declared upon the founding of the State of the Jewish people that if the country could not help the world through its natural resources, the Jewish nation would contribute to all peoples through innovation. Israel went on to live up to PM Ben Gurion’s vision with such contributions as the stent that saves lives throughout the world, the flagship microprocessor of Intel used globally, and the cherry tomato that graces tables around the world.

SIGNAL Note 41

Israel’s Policy on the Syrian Civil War: Risks and Opportunities

Xi Jinping Thought advocates the adoption of a new approach to international relations. SIGNAL’s research on Israel’s perspective on Xi Jinping thought and its implications for the Middle East causes us to examine aspects of Xi Thought in the context of Middle East issues. President Xi has called on global powers to abandon “outdated ideas of the cold war mentality and big power diplomacy” and for the “world to replace alliances with friendship, and through mutual win-win cooperation” to build a community of a shared future for all.

It is in this context that we look at the 7-year prolonged crisis in Syria. The involvement of Russia, the US, and Iran -either directly or via their proxies-preciselyepitomize the mentality and approach that motivated the principles of Xi thought outlined above. One country, however, seems to have adopted an approach which echo’s elements of coexistance that inform Xi’s vision of foreign affairs. This country is Israel.

SIGNAL Note 40

Xi Jinping Thought and the Middle East – The Dialectics of Normalization

The rise of Donald Trump epitomizes the challenge to normalcy on the international stage. Many of Trump’s supporters consider the notion of normalcy to be a conspiracy perpetrated by powerful elites. According to this approach, the “normal” is a state of affairs which favors the interests of those elites, covertly enforcing sectorial agendas with regard to every aspect of social life, from the economy to public morality. As such, the “normal” represses the “true will of the people” and must be fought on all fronts. Many of Trump’s opponents consider his behavior to be an affront to common sense and to the “normal” code of political conduct, both internally and on the international stage. For these opponents, the “normal” is the continuous dominance of universal and generic order. It is a “one size fits all” arrangement grounded in a capitalist, individualist mindset. The specific needs and priorities of specific communities are discarded in favor of this global vision. The two sides to this debate are mutually exclusive. The “normal” as an object of resistance cannot tolerate the “normal” as an object of desire, and vice versa.

Xi Jinping thought allows for a way out of this paralyzing debate. This way out lies in the insistence of Xi Jinping thought on framing a dialectics of normalization. Xi’s predecessors dealt mostly with the necessities of revolution and its aftermath. Theirs was a dialectic of struggle against forces hostile to the revolutionary achievements of the CCP, forces both internal and external. Within this dialectic, a socialist society and a socialist people were forged in motion. Xi Jinping thought begins with a Chinese state and a Chinese people both well established and continuously progressing. President Xi himself describes the foundational contradiction of China today as one between “unbalanced and inadequate development” and “the people’s ever-growing need for a better life”. The main challenge of the CCP is now maintaining the momentum towards becoming a “moderately prosperous country in all fields”, and doing so while enhancing ideological conviction and the committed leadership of the party.

SIGNAL Note 39

Israel’s Perspective on Xi Jinping Thought and its Impact on the Middle East – a 2018 SIGNAL update

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As Founder and Executive Director of SIGNAL, I am taking the liberty of using the space of the first edition of the SIGNAL Note for 2018 to reflect on some of the significant developments at SIGNAL. I will introduce our new research area for 2018 – Israel’s Perspective on Xi Jinping Thought and its impact on the Middle East. This will include insights into how SIGNAL’s 2nd annual conference on Israel’s China Policy informs our new research track as well as other significant developments.

2017 was an auspicious year for SIGNAL. From our new office in the heart of central Israel, SIGNAL concretized its position as Israel’s premier action-oriented think tank advancing China-Israel political, diplomatic, economic and cultural relations. During the year we contributed to the planning of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s 2017 trip to China and participated in the events. We continued our research on China-Israel relations, Israel and the BRI, and Understanding China. SIGNAL cooperated with Renmin University’s SIS under the auspices of CMEAS to co-host a trilateral seminar – US-China-Israel. We expanded the Israel Studies Programs to universities in Heilongjiang, Shanxi, and Hubei.

SIGNAL Note 38

Eran Zahavi and Israeli Sports Relations with China

The BRI is an economic framework that offers an imperative to bring together people and cultures through economic and business engagement. Forming personal bonds between peoples is a core BRI principle as essential as financial incentives. Israel recognized that enhanced cultural exchange and personal interaction lays the foundation for meaningful work in tech investment, government cooperation, and university level collaboration.

One innovative area of people-to-people cooperation and the building of personal bonds is sport. According to Bloomberg News, by 2025, the value of Chinese sports infrastructure is expected to reach a staggering $740 billion.1 Sport can inspire international goodwill and drive personal relationships essential for bilateral cooperation. China opened this door when it invited Israeli football star, Eran Zahavi, to join the Guangdong football league. With this creative step, Israel and China stand to add another dimension to the already budding comprehensive innovation partnership.

  1. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-07-13/soccer-balls-and-china-s-billions

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The SIGNAL Note is a Chinese-English publication by SIGNAL's researchers on Israel and the Belt & Road Initiative.