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.”

Israel and China’s Silk Road
By: Kevjn Lim

When China’s President Xi Jinping articulated his idea of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) in Astana in September 2013 and again a month later in Jakarta,1 what emerged was a vision to parlay large-scale economic dynamism into a foreign policy projecting Chinese influence overseas in the name of development. Inclusive and expansive at once, this is an ambitious vision and one which could seal ours as the Chinese century if it succeeds in weaving the loose ends of China’s overseas interests into a coherent whole. Three years into SREB, now better known as the “Belt & Road Initiative” (BRI), a part of the vision is slowly taking on flesh. The volume of media reports attests to this. What remains less clear is the strategic implications and opportunities of BRI on China’s partners. Occupying a slight sliver at the intersection of West Asia and the Middle East, Europe and Africa – regions of intimate relevance to BRI – Israel too has joined the new Silk Road caravan. Where does it fit in, and what difference does BRI make?

  1. “Promote friendship between our people and work together to build a bright future” (text of Xi Jinping’s speech at Nazarbayev University, Astana), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, 8 September 2013, http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/ce/cebel/eng/zxxx/t1078088.htm; “Xi in call for building of new ‘Maritime Silk Road’”, China Daily, 4 October 2013, http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-10/04/content_17008940.htm

Seeing China Through the Turkish History Textbooks
By: Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak

Turkey and China, two pivotal states with remarkable imperial legacies and centuries old state traditions, have enjoyed cordial ties since the formation of bilateral relations in 1971. Despite being located in different geographical regions and not sharing borders the impact of China on Turkish history has been significant.

In order to understand the basis of the relations among the countries, it is fruitful to analyze the formation of the Turkish national history narrative and its reflections within Turkish educational textbooks. Such an examination will reveal the view on China and its people in the eyes of ordinary Turkish citizens.

Following the First World War, the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish war of independence (1919-1922), the effort to create a Turkish nation-state led to the formation of a new historical narrative under the newborn Turkish republic. In order to prove that the Turks had a glorious past even before their conversion to Islam (751 CE) and the formation of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923), the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the ideological father of Turkish nationalism, historian, Ziya Gökalp, formulated a historical idea that attributed a special importance to pre-Islamic Turkish history. It is this overarching idea which was to be essential in informing the perspective of the early school textbooks of the young republic.

Thus, the Huns, Göktürks and Uygurs, all of whom at some point engaged in bloody campaigns with Chinese dynasties, were mentioned as the most prominent pre-Islamic Turkish groups to have formed strong states. These groups were portrayed as ancestors of the contemporary Turkish citizen. In light of this viewpoint, the Turkish textbooks had also to portray the Chinese as the long standing opponent of these Turkish peoples. It is necessary to underline that the Turkish school textbooks’ position vis-à-vis the Chinese Empire did not change over the years. The history textbooks that were published during the 1990s and those published as recently as 2016 still portray the same basic story as their early Republic antecedents.

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