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.

The Impact of Culture and History on China’s International Relations
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.

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.

China and Israel – A Quarter Century of Friendship
By: Professor Meron Medzini, Distinguished SIGNAL Fellow

On 4 January 2017 The People’s Republic of China and the State of Israel will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. This event can be safely described as one of Israel’s major strategic foreign policy achievements. After decades of alienation and at times open hostility on the part of China, both countries have since become close trading partners, and there have been many displays of growing sympathy between the two nations: China, the largest in the world whose population accounts for 28% of the global population, and tiny Israel, whose population is 0.0013% of the world’s population. Today there is significant cooperation in many fields between the two nations, based partly on China’s awareness bordering on admiration for Israel’s hi-tech sector. China also appreciates Israel’s military capabilities, its intelligence gathering talents, its advanced technologies. China has become Israel’s major trading partner in Asia. The volume of Sino-Israel trade that amounted to $50 million in 1992, jumped 200 times to $13 billion in 2016. Chinese investments in Israel in 2016 amounted to over $6 billion, far exceeding American investments in the Jewish state.

What are the main reasons that explain this amazing development in the foreign policy of both nations? Although Israel was one of the first non-Communist states to recognize the People’s Republic of China as early as January 1950, its efforts to establish ties with that power were rebuffed. From 1955 to 1978 China pursued an anti-Israel, pro-Arab policy. China’s growing need for oil, UN votes and trade led Beijing to seek closer ties with the Arab and Muslim nations, and by implication to an anti-Israel stand in the United Nations and other international forums. This changed in 1978 when China required an upgrading of its ancient Soviet weaponry, mostly tanks. It then discovered Israel’s advanced military technologies. The timing was also critical – it paralleled Deng Xiao Ping’s dramatic reforms in all sectors. China now required modern technologies in the spheres of agriculture, irrigation, chemicals and fertilizers, weapons. This was also the time when Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty and Israel was no longer isolated internationally or regionally.

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