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Israel and China - A Marriage Made in Heaven, Except for Energy Issues

Israel and China - A Marriage Made in Heaven, Except for Energy Issues

China and Israel are the most pragmatic of partners. For China, Israel’s prime attraction is as a source of cutting-edge high technology, for Israel, its gaining a foothold in the world’s largest market.

China’s interest in Israel’s technology combined with China’s go it alone attitudes on energy issues represent a mixed blessing for Tel Aviv.

On the plus side for Israel, a Chinese bank is in talks to finance the construction of a $25 million, 14-megawatt wind farm for Yarok Energy Ltd on the Golan Heights, where the company has operated a 4.8-megawatt wind turbine farm for the past two decades.

China’s determination to invest in contested Golan territories comes despite that fact that the United Nations on 12 January passed a “Resolution adopted by the General Assembly (on the report of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee [Fourth Committee] [A/66/427] ‘66/80. The occupied Syrian Golan’” which noted, “Deeply concerned (italics in original) that the Syrian Golan, occupied since 1967, has been under continued Israeli military occupation,” …” 2. Also calls upon (italics in original) Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan and in particular to desist from the establishment of settlements…”.

For Israel, China’s occasionally pusillanimous attitudes towards both the UN and the world community are not an overwhelming source of distress – if Chinese capital wants to fund a power project on the Golan Heights despite “changing the physical character” of the region  amidst a slowly roiling Syrian civil war, who are the UN to criticize such actions?

And military cooperation between the two nations is deepening – according to Xinhau, during a 21 May meeting in Beijing China and Israel pledged to boost ties between their armed forces as their chiefs of staff held talks. China's People's Liberation Army General Staff chief Chen Bingde told Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Benny Gantz after lauding political, economic, cultural and people-to-people ties over the past  two decades since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Israel, "Military-to-military ties between the two nations have also grown along with the overall bilateral relationship." Underlining the importance of his visit, Gantz also met with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.

The bilateral military discussions build upon a visit last May when Israeli officials hosted PLA Navy commander Wu Shengli, and a month later, in June 2011 when Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to China. Chen reciprocated with a visit to Israel two months later, while in December 2011, Israel's paramilitary Border Police unit hosted a delegation from the People's Republic of China’s People’s Armed Police (PAP).

Top of China’s military wish from Israel’s defence establishment?

Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, along with advanced technology from fields ranging from agriculture to automobiles.

But, as far as China’s interest in Israeli military high-tech, University of Haifa the Department of Asian Studies Professor Yoram Evron noted that Israel is very "strict" in its defence exports to China as so much of it is derived from the U.S.  and consequently Israel "will not dare to jeopardize its relations with the U.S., on which it depends so heavily."

For Israel?

Political support, and access to China’s immense market.

China is now Israel's third-largest trade partner, after the European Union and United States. In 2011 Israeli-Chinese bilateral trade exceeded $8 billion, roughly 20 percent higher than in 2010.

What could cloud this otherwise sunny picture?


China relies on Iran for roughly 10 percent of its oil supply and has repeatedly rejected intensifying UN sanctions against Iran for its nuclear activities, an effort led by the U.S. and Israel, which suspect that Iran’s nuclear energy program in facts mask a secret military effort to acquire nuclear weapons.

According to Iran’s Ambassador to Beijing Mehdi Safari, in 2011 Chinese-Iranian trade increased 55 percent to more than $45 billion a $16 billion increase over 2010 trade. Notably, China boosted its oil imports from Iran by 30 percent in 2011 despite Western and UN sanctions pressure, importing nearly 557,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iranian oil. On an optimistic note, Safari late last year observed, “The real expectation that the volume of trade (between Iran and China) has the capacity to reach $100 billion is on our agenda.”

So, $5 billion versus $8 billion annual trade?

Oil now, or drones later?

Beijing’s not saying.

Neither is Tel Aviv.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • Philip Andrews on June 18 2012 said:
    OK, China is a member of the SCO. She has ties to Russia, not overly close but working and effective where necessary. She also has ties to Iran. It is rumoured that the US UAV captured by Iran was actually brought down by a Chinese technology team.

    It is also quite possible that of the millions of Russians that went to live in Israel in the last 30 years, a great many were/are KGB types reporting back to Moscow. This isn't conspiracvy its what actually happens. Between the Russians, the Chinese and the Iranians Israel faces a three fold intelligence 'threat' that it would normally be hard put to manage at the best of times. These aren't the best of times.

    China, Russia and Iran are the potential opposition to the US/EU/Israel axis. Global power is shifting towards them. In maybe a generation China will become the worlds largest economy. In maybe a gen or two Russia will be the deciding voice in Europe through Berlin, Paris etc. In the same time period Iran is likely to achieve its aims in the ME, Western interventions notwithstanding.

    Does a country like Israel with limited means and capacities really want to tangle with the infinite 3000 year old complexities of China?

    If I were Israel I'd think very hard about that...
  • Matt Brown on June 22 2012 said:
    China's involvement and siding with Israel, would ultimately be a major decisive factor. That would be the end of the Palestinian dream.

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