The Chinese Way: Cultivating Relationships and Building Trust
By: Dr.Aryeh Tepper, SIGNAL Senior Research Fellow and ISP Academic Advisor

What makes China so different from the West? Why are relations between Westerners and Chinese so often characterized by disparate expectations and missed communications? And how can Israel avoid falling into the trap of thinking in narrow Western terms when dealing with Beijing?

One major difference between China and the West is that relationship networks play a far more intense and decisive role in the lives of Chinese than in the lives of Westerners. This is the case because the sense of an authentic inner self that stands on its own, independent of relationships and societal influences, is far stronger in Western culture than in Chinese culture. This might sound like a strange notion at first hearing, but it cuts to the heart of the distinctive ways in which Chinese and Westerners navigate their way through the world, including the willingness to trust those who come from outside of one’s established network of relationships.

Everything Over the Heavens: A new arena for confrontation and cooperation
By: Dale Aluf, Director of Research and Strategy at SIGNAL.

There is an ancient Chinese idea that “under heaven’s canopy there is nowhere that is not the king’s land,” this is the concept of Tian Xia. China of the 21st Century has pushed its ambitions further than anything the ancient thinkers could have imagined. Since launching its first unmanned spacecraft in 1999, China has released itself from terrestrial constraints and propelled itself far above heaven’s canopy. The Chinese space program soared into the new millennium, as China became the third country to independently send humans into space in 2003. It has since expanded its space capabilities, launching a variety of prototype space-stations (Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2), as well as a cargo ship (Tianzhou), capable of refueling other spacecraft. 2018 saw China fire more rockets into space than any other nation in the world. A year later, China made history with Chang’e 4 – successfully landing the first rover on the dark side of the Moon. China has become one of the very few powers that have any sort of mastery over Earth’s immediate cosmos.

Changing world, shifting relations: Israel’s ties with China
By: Dale Aluf, Director of Research and Strategy at SIGNAL.

Israel and China are peculiar partners. In almost every way, they display contrasts as opposed to commonalities – across cultures, history, size, political systems, economic structures, and ideology. In the face of their differences, they have succeeded in cultivating flourishing economic relations, and today, China is Israel’s second-largest trading partner country. China’s relations with Israel are emblematic of the impact of the PRC’s vast international outreach over the past decade.

Israel’s China Challenge
By: Dale Aluf, Director of Research at SIGNAL.

The question of how to deal with an increasingly assertive, powerful China has left many in the international arena baffled – including Israel.

Until recently, Chinese investment entering the Jewish state both in infrastructure and high technologies was viewed strictly through an economic lens. But recent developments, emerging in part from increasing U.S.-China tensions, have led Israel to ask questions about their relationship with the Eastern giant.

The Haifa port conundrum perhaps best illustrates the emerging concerns and confusion by Israelis regarding how to navigate their dealings with Beijing. In 2015, Shanghai International Ports Group won a tender to operate the newly constructed container terminal of the Haifa port for 25 years.

And until 2018, all seemed kosher.

Business as Usual? China’s Social Credit System
By: Dale Aluf

“Why did you bring me into the world to suffer?” Ren Chen, a 13-year-old boy from Hunan province, asked his mother after a decade of constant illness and two kidney surgeries. He is one of almost 300,000 children who fell ill after 22 companies, including state-owned dairy company Sanlu, laced their milk powder with melamine, a chemical used to make plastic.

Since then, Chinese children have been endangered by not one, not two, but three vaccine crises wherein eight infants died, two million improperly stored vaccines were illegally sold around the country, and at least 250,000 doses of substandard vaccines were administered to children. The pharmacist who sold two million improperly stored vaccines, Pang Hongwei, earned an estimated $11 million through her illicit activities. This was the second vaccine scandal Hongwei orchestrated. She was simply transferred to a different city after being caught the first time, even securing a new job as a sales employee at a pharmaceutical company.

Years of similar commercial scandals, Ponzi schemes, environmental disasters, and food safety scares have caused severe issues of consumer mistrust, setting the stage for the development of China’s social credit system (SCS).

Ancient History, Contemporary Practice: China’s Encounter with the Xiongnu
By: Aryeh Tepper

What can China’s struggle with the Xiongnu, a nomadic, horse-riding people who lived on the country’s northern frontier 2000 years ago, teach us about how the Middle Kingdom conducts its foreign affairs today? Quite a lot, so long as we acknowledge the enduring influence of China’s historical memory on present-day foreign affairs. To borrow the felicitous term coined by Singaporean Ambassador-at-Large Bilahari Kausikan, China’s “mental framework” is still shaped to a large degree by the country’s singular history.

Before delving into the specifics of the relationship between the Han Chinese and the Xiongnu, it’s helpful to consider the meaning of mental frameworks and the crucial role they play today on the international stage.

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SIGNAL Perspectives are written by experts on a range of issues within the China-Israel-Middle East space