The Rising Strategic Value Of Global Technology Assets And Its Impact On Sino-Israel Relations
By: Ariella Berger

Chinese investment in Israeli technology in 2016 increased ten-fold over the previous year. With ten bilateral agreements recently signed between the two nations valued at $25 billion, China – Israel relations appear to be moving along a steady economic trajectory. This growth, however, is based primarily on China’s need for Israel’s innovative technology. This begs the question, are Sino-Israel relations vulnerable to a fall in the value of global technology asset? In this SIGNAL Perspective, Ariella Berger, draws on the metaphor of the perfect storm to contend that four converging factors: the rising relevance of Artificial Intelligence as a critical asset that accelerates technology convergence; the high demand for technology assets in America being spurred by Trump’s plan to resuscitate US manufacturing; The relevance of technology for China’s Belt and Road Initiative; and the consequences of the closing technological gap between advanced economies suggest that Sino-Israel relations are likely to remain prosperous as the strategic value of technology, in the mid-term, appears set to increase.

Understanding How Culture and History Impact China’s International Relations: The Case of the South China Sea
By: Carice Witte and Aryeh Tepper

Is China an up-and-coming aggressor determined to govern the global order? That seems to be the conventional view among some Western pundits and politicians. From snubbing former U.S. President Obama upon his arrival at last year’s G20 summit, to not participating in the arbitration of the South China Sea territorial dispute, China appears intent on throwing its weight around as it rises to prominence on the international stage.

While it’s true that the People’s Republic of China jealously protects its national interests, the conventional view is problematic because it lacks the broad historical-cultural perspective that is necessary for evaluating Chinese behavior. As Israel continues to strengthen its connection to the Middle Kingdom, it’s important that Israel’s leaders know how to assess Chinese behavior independently of the Western conventional wisdom. The 2016 South China Sea ruling is helpful for illustrating what the Western perspective misses.

In July, 2016, an international tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against Chinese claims to “historic rights” in the South China Sea and in favor of the Philippines. After the decision, The Economist articulated the conventional wisdom as follows, “The judgment could… in the long run, force China to choose what sort of country it wants to be—one that supports rules-based global regimes, or one that challenges them in pursuit of great-power status.”

The problem with this formulation is that it projects a Western cultural perspective onto the Chinese. From the Chinese perspective there is no black and white dichotomy, either this or that. For the Chinese, things can be grey, complicated and in many cases contradictory. What’s more, living with contradictions is completely acceptable.

This Chinese capacity to live without absolute clarity or decisive solutions, the product of a long history that has chastened any ambition to master reality, likewise informs Chinese foreign policy. Instead of either supporting a rules-based global regime or challenging it, the Chinese are intent on protecting their “historic rights” and, as such, their domestic stability and security, while learning on the fly how to adapt to the international system. However, the legalistic approach adopted by the international community in resolving the South China Sea dispute not only failed to actually solve the problem ─ the approach didn’t change anything on the ground ─ it is liable, in conditions of extremity, to destabilize the country.

Israel’s relations with the U.S. and China: A zero-sum game?
By: Aryeh Tepper

Are ties between Israel and the two great powers of our time, the United States and China, a zero-sum game? Must Israel’s relations with one power necessarily come at the expense of relations with the other?

The answer should be an easy “no.” On the one hand, Israel enjoys a special relationship with the United States, a relationship that won’t be changing for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, relations with China are rapidly developing on a number of fronts ─ economic, diplomatic and academic ─ and the benefits of the relationship are clear to both sides.

But some Israeli officials and American pundits have been sounding the alarm in recent months, warning that Israel’s relations with China shouldn’t take the place of Israel’s special relationship with the U.S. To cite one example, Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies recently asserted in The Jerusalem Post that, “it’s no secret that Israel is looking for new allies… A growing chorus in Israel believes that China is a good option.” Schanzer’s advice? “China… is not long-term alliance material for Israel… predictions of a new special relationship that supplants that of Israel and the United States are very premature.”

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