Despite Its Good Relations with China, Israel Shouldn’t Consider It a Friend

June 25, 2019 | Ehud Yaari
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When it comes to the Middle East, Beijing’s primary goal seems to be its “Belt and Road Initiative,” which involves establishing trade routes to Europe by land and sea. China also maintains good relations, including robust trade, with the Jewish state. But Ehud Yaari, having just completed a series of meetings with important Chinese military, diplomatic, and academic figures, points out that Beijing’s diplomatic strategy of neutrality actually leads to positions inimical to Israel:

China . . . steers clear of taking sides in the Iran-Saudi Arabia showdown or intra-Arab disputes such as the [the Saudi and Emirati] embargo of Qatar, preferring to deal with the Arab League as its main address for dialogue. This includes consistently supporting the league’s positions on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

One of China’s voting habits at the UN is to back all anti-Israel resolutions. Beijing is fully aware that Gulf governments are quietly pursuing cooperation with the Israeli government on several fronts, but so long as their formal public stance remains frosty, China will keep voting accordingly.

The Chinese government does not facilitate the entry of Israeli exports to China; mutual trade reached $14 billion last year, but most of the Israeli sales were made by Intel plants. Chinese companies have acquired some major Israeli firms (mainly in the chemical and dairy sectors) and won tenders to manage new sections of Haifa and Ashdod ports, but Israeli regulators have prevented their entry into the cyber and insurance sectors; the latter is significant because China has sought access to data about Israeli security personnel via pension programs.

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