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.

From David Ben-Gurion to Ben-Gurion University: the Israel–China Connection, from Idea to Action
By: Paula Kabalo

David Ben-Gurion, founding father of the State of Israel, often expressed his appreciation for the Chinese people and predicted that China would again play a senior role—one of leadership and influence—in world affairs as it had once before. While one may be inclined to diminish the importance of these statements, one might also accordingly argue that Ben-Gurion took this position as a sober-minded statesman who recognized the importance of building bridges and maintaining relations with the great continent that Israel calls home—Asia.

A more thorough examination of Ben-Gurion’s articles, speeches and letters, however, reveals a much deeper dimension regarding his respect for China: one that transcends the practical interest that flows from geographic proximity and potential economic cooperation. Even while serving as prime minister and minister of defense, Ben-Gurion found time to read Chinese philosophy and study the history of the Chinese people, “one of the first peoples of culture in antiquity,” he said.

What Israel Can Learn from the Sino-Swiss Free Trade Agreement
By: Jonathan Schwarz

China and Israel wrapped up their fifth round of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations this past January. The negotiations began in 2016. Prime Minister Netanyahu has pushed for reaching a final agreement in 2019. The goal of this final accord is a win-win outcome, but how would that look?

The Middle Kingdom is a mammoth of economic might. Israel, for its part, punches above its weight class to be sure, but China is a heavyweight. The Chinese are quite aware that firms around the world relish the opportunity of trading with them. This has been true for centuries and China is keen on leveraging this fact. Consequently, the majority of China’s FTAs with developed countries have been slightly lopsided to their own benefit. In most cases, Chinese exports receive a higher tariff elimination rate than the counterpart’s exports and these eliminations often apply immediately whereas the counterpart often has to wait a period of years for all of the tariff eliminations to go into effect. The rationale given is that various Chinese industries are still developing and need time to adjust to competition from advanced countries.

הדיון הישראלי-סיני
איננו יכולים להתעלם מהדיון הציבורי המתפתח סביב ההשקעה הגבוהה במיוחד של חברות סיניות בשוק הישראלי. הנושא שבעבר היה נידון בשיחות סלון מאחורי דלתיים סגורות, מעסיק כיום את המהדורות המרכזיות ואת הפורומים לביטחון לאומי. בכירים ביטחוניים לשעבר יחד עם פרשנים כלכליים מעלים חששות בנוגע לסיכונים האפשריים לביטחונה הלאומי של ישראל ולחוסנה הכלכלי.

ישראל אינה לבדה. מדינות עולם שלישי לצד כלכלות מתקדמות מהוות גם הן מוקד להשקעות חוץ סיניות כחלק מחזונה הכלכלי-עולמי של סין, כאשר כיום מדינות אלה מחפשות את האיזון הנכון בין הגנה על האינטרסים הלאומיים שלהן לבין שמירה על מדיניות השוק הפתוח.
מספר כלכלות מערביות, דוגמת אוסטרליה וגרמניה, שינו את האופן בו הם סוקרות את תהליכי ההשקעות הזרות שלהן על-מנת להתאים את ההליכים עבור קונים חדשים ותעשיות. עם זאת, מוקד העניין העולמי האמיתי עוסק בארה”ב ובמלחמת הסחר וההשקעות בינה לבין לסין, מה שרלוונטי למסחר הישראלי ולמציאות הפוליטית בישראל.

The Haifa port-China conundrum in context
By: Dale Aluf

Amidst rising tensions between China and the U.S., controversy surrounding the Shanghai International Ports Group (SIPG) being awarded the tender to operate the new terminal of the Haifa port has taken center stage in Jerusalem.

Rising concerns are reflected in a sample of headlines published in Israeli media outlets in recent months, including:
“Israel Is Giving China the Keys to Its Largest Port – and the U.S. Navy May Abandon Israel”
“Has Israel made a huge mistake letting a Chinese firm run part of Haifa port?”
“U.S Navy May Stop Docking in Haifa after Chinese Take over port”
“‘Trump Will Be Furious’: Tension Between U.S. and Israel Over China Infrastructure Projects.”

In September, Haaretz reported that members of the American think tank community harshly criticized their Israeli counterparts over the deal, which will see SIPG take over operations of the new terminal for 25 years, beginning in 2021. They raised concerns over the possibility of the Chinese using the facility to spy on the U.S. 6th fleet which occasionally docks in Haifa; “Once China is in the picture…the Israel Navy will not be able to count on maintaining the close relations it has had with the Sixth Fleet.”

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