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 President Xi has called on global powers to abandon “outdated ideas of the cold war mentality and big power diplomacy” and for the “world to replace alliances with friendship, and through mutual win-win cooperation” to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.


SIGNAL Note 37

2017 High Tech Review

Israel has become synonymous with technological and scientific innovation. This is the result of an effective public-private collaboration during Israel’s almost 7 decade modern history.

The philosophies of its founding fathers, pragmatic policies of consecutive governments, and diverse thinking of generations of high-tech visionaries have been central to shaping the Innovation Nation. As a direct result of the synergy between policies, strategic thinking and action orientation, the Jewish State has championed its vision of national sustainability through R&D and the application of innovation technology.

As the previous chapters of the ‘Israeli Innovation Series’ in this SIGNAL Note have illustrated, the combination of broad government support for science and math at the university level along with a multi-cultural population eager to protect their homeland, have formed a dynamic high-tech ecosystem. Dubbed Silicon Wadi, the Hebrew term for small valley, the nucleus of scientific R&D has formed an essential element of the Israeli economy indispensable to the Nations growth.1 2017 saw many Israeli Startups achieve excellence, either through IPO’s or significant international acquisitions- generating global media attention, tax revenues for the state, and further commitment to ensuring the Holy Land remains an easily accessible tech hub for the international market.

  1. There are about 4,300 startups operating in Israel, with about 2,900 of these located within a 10-mile radius, a rate of development second in intensity to only Silicon Valley itself.

SIGNAL Note 36

Israeli Technology in the Global Market

Israeli technological innovations have permeated most aspects of modern society. From the way we communicate, feed billions of people, and build a comprehensive visual and digital understanding of the world around us, Israeli discoveries and R&D have played a critical, often unsung role in improving the lives of countless individuals worldwide. Israeli technological breakthroughs have benefited global populations in the developing and developed world. From microchips of cellphones and drip irrigation to satellite innovation and biomedical advancements such as the stent and countless new aggressive cancer therapies, Israeli technology is ever present and essential. Through these diverse and game changing innovations the Jewish State has been irrevocably linked with scientific, engineering, and agricultural advancements.

From the establishment of the modern State of Israel, the national financial backing for R&D has been unmatched, amounting to 4.25% of total GDP. Since the founding of the State, government policy has encouraged and supported science and innovation. This focus emanated from deeply seated views of preeminent Zionist leaders from Theodore Herzl, David Ben Gurion and Gold Meir. They placed central importance on Israel contributing to the perpetual development of the region and the world through scientific and technological innovation. Consequently, Israel became a hub of global brands such as IBM, Intel and Google where Israeli ideas are cultivated for global gains. From Mobileye’s recent $15 billion acquisition (by Intel) to the over 250 internationally affiliated R&D centers based in Israel, the Jewish State has become a global tech epicenter.

SIGNAL Note 35

Innovation for each New Era – How the Israeli Gov’t turned the desert into the Startup Nation by creating a domestic Innovation Hub

Israel was established by a people’s army. That set the stage for the ongoing integration between civil and military development in the State of Israel.

Creating a sustainable innovation ecosystem requires the active participation of both public and private partners. Both the people and state of Israel honed this partnership through collective historical hardships and ongoing conflict that engendered the necessary resilience to counter adversity and generate strategic shifts in its favor. Contributing to this was the ever-present existential threats posed by its neighbors. However, overcoming adversity was only one of the necessary components of building an innovation powerhouse. Without vision and a malleable policy dictated by the government, Israel would have been unable to make the desert bloom. From the difficult realizations of Zionism’s early founders to the coherent policy of the Jewish State, Israel has taken top-down steps to facilitate high tech innovation. Consequently, the young State of Israel revolutionized the means of agricultural production, established domestic water security, and developed ubiquitous technical solutions to countless global problems.

Taking an historic look at the role of the Israeli government in promoting domestic innovation reveals the value of a top-down approach as a catalyst in creating a strong tech sector. In turn, the means of improving Israel’s political and geostrategic standing were cultivated through an innovation-based policy. The % of GDP directed towards R&D as well as the programming of the office of the Chief Scientist and the Israeli Innovation Authority were pivotal to the development of a vibrant startup ecosystem.

SIGNAL Note 34

Ben Gurion’s Vision – Innovation and Scientific Development

As the nation of Israel was being formed, one of its founders, David Ben Gurion, fashioned the fledgling State of the Jewish people to be an endless source of scientific and technological innovation to benefit the Middle East region and the world. Even before becoming Israel’s first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion acted as an unwavering beacon for sustainable development as well as domestic, industrial, and agricultural capacity in the pre-state period. Devoid of natural resources, Israel could not contribute energy or minerals. The desolate land was mainly barren. Ben Gurion envisioned a State driven by ingenuity and its ability to overcome adversity to prove its rightful place in the pantheon of nations by making a valuable contribution to the surrounding societies.

Understanding how Israel became the High-Tech powerhouse it is today, requires an appreciation of Ben Gurion’s foresight and sheer will. An examination of Ben Gurion’s early plans and policy in relation to the current innovation tack of the Jewish State, reveals how the vitality of top-down instruments of government can promote holistic innovation from any and every sector.
Ben Gurion’s vision for the vitality and vindication of the Jewish people in the State of Israel leaned heavily on promoting sustainable development. The encouragement of pre-state institutions focused on scientific R&D, military technical advancements combined with the pure tenacity of the state’s early pioneers laid the foundation for the innovation epicenter of modern Israel. The policies, programs, and philosophy which drove Israel’s early understanding of the importance of innovation were more often than not the personal directives of David Ben Gurion. Through his role in the Histadrut1 , the Jewish Agency2, and political leadership during Israel’s first three decades as a State, Ben Gurion definitively shaped the face and form of Israeli scientific R&D. As a direct result of Ben Gurion’s obsessive pursuits, Israel has time and time again overcome its geostrategic, economic and technological hurdles, establishing what is today one of the most technologically advanced startup innovation centers in the world.

  1. General Federation of Labor, Israeli labor organization that includes workers in the cooperative and collective agricultural settlements as well as in most industries. Organized in 1920, Histadrut is the largest voluntary organization in Israel and the most important economic body in the state.
  2. Which Ben Gurion led from 1935 to the founding of the State in 1948

SIGNAL Note 33

An Interview with Dorian Barak, CEO of Indigo-Kuangchi

Israel supports the long-term vision and ambitious policies of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) in a variety of ways. A key avenue of engagement with China and the BRI is with leaders from Israel’s banking and private investment sectors. They bring their vast domestic and global experience to the China-Israel relationship and strengthen China’s tech foundations through identifying and facilitating Israeli technology acquisitions. One of these leaders is Dorian Barak, CEO of Indigo- Kuangchi and a member of SIGNAL’s Board of Academic and Expert Advisors. SIGNAL was pleased to interview Barak for the SIGNAL Note series. In it he shares his insights from years of business experience in the field.

SIGNAL Note 32

Smart Mobility Industry


As China enters the field of automotive tech, the emerging Israeli smart mobility industry could provide vital technology and experience to further broaden Chinese innovation. Autonomous vehicles are currently being developed through partnerships between Chinese and Israeli tech companies. Self-driving cars entering the market promise to transform methods of transportation for the countries of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and improve urban life. Intelligent and connected vehicles shift the focus of the global transportation industry to wide-ranging international economic cooperation to promote connectivity, efficiency, environmental improvement, and quality of life.

The cultivation of smart mobility startups across Israel provides further potential collaborations that could continue to enhance Sino-Israeli relationships. Israeli cutting edge technology startups could help China reach its goal of creating a commercial market of intelligent, autonomous vehicles not only in China but in BRI nations. Israeli-Chinese partnerships in this sector furnish opportunities for the cyber-economy to be expanded. These partnerships can also help build competition in national monopoly sectors. Enhancing competition and expanding economic development in the cyber sphere are both goals of the 13th Five-Year Plan.

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The SIGNAL Note is a Chinese-English publication by SIGNAL's analysts exploring Israel’s Perspective on Xi Jinping Thought & its potential impact on the Middle East.