Can US disrupt Sino-Israeli cooperation?

By Han Jianwei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/1/22 11:08:39

On January 15, US Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette urged Israel to implement stringent screening procedures for foreign investment, especially from China, during his visit to the country. A few days ago, US President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton raised US concerns about Israel's decision to allow the Shanghai International Port Group to run the Haifa Port for 25 years when meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Repeated warnings by senior US officials cautioning Israel against economic and trade cooperation with China have demonstrated the US' growing concern over enhancing China ties with the Middle East nation, which is an important US ally.

Since the Trump administration launched the trade war against China, China-US relations have been imperiled. The US has identified China as a strategic competitor and the trade war is a crucial means to contain China's rapid rise. In addition to hitting China with tariffs, Washington has also put "Made in China 2025" in its crosshairs, trying to prevent China's high tech sector including artificial intelligence, chip manufacturing and 5G technology from developing. 

With the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Chinese tech giant Huawei's chief financial officer, the arrogance and hegemony of the US has been exposed. Washington has also requested its allies to restrict exchanges and cooperation with China in the high-tech sector, trying to block Beijing's access to advanced technology to the greatest possible extent. 

Israel and US as close allies have long shared intelligence. Despite shared security interests, there are differences in the perception of external security between the nations. Washington has taken China as a major threat to the US' overseas security interests, but from Israel's perspective, Beijing is an ideal economic and trade partner rather than a security threat. 

Israel has had hostile relations and lackluster economic ties with neighboring countries. It needs to expand economic and trade relations with the broader world. Israel's high-tech, artificial intelligence and other fields are highly complementary to China's industrial transformation and upgrade. Given a limited size and population, Israel has to seek external partners for economic development and has thus attached great importance to cooperation with China, the second largest economy in the world. It has taken a pragmatic and rational stance in cooperating with China, focusing aspects of bilateral cooperation on the economy. 

As China's involvement in the Middle East is mainly about economic interests, Israel believes Beijing attaches importance to developing relations for the latter's economic interests. Therefore, so far, Israel has given a cold response to US warnings and criticism. The cooperation between China and Israel cannot be compared to that between the US and Israel which is carried out at higher levels, and it will not jeopardize the interests of the US.

However, with the US attempt to contain China and impede its technological progress, Washington is likely to throw a spanner in Israel's cooperation with China in the future, which may affect normal economic, trade and investment activities between China and Israel.  

But in general, there is vast potential for cooperation between the two countries that cannot be disrupted by the US. Besides, although Israel's diplomatic strategy is highly dependent on the US, when the country's major economic interests are concerned, it's believed Israel will stick to a nationalist stance. 

China must be vigilant about US' suppression of China's economic, trade and investment activities on a global scale. China-Israel relations are unlikely to be substantially hit by groundless allegations by some senior US officials, but China should act more cautiously when trading with or investing in Israel. Chinese enterprises and staff, in particular, must comply with local laws and regulations in the Middle East nation. 


The author is an associate professor of Middle East Studies Institute in Shanghai International Studies University.opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
Newspaper headline: Can US dampen China-Israel cooperation?


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