People's Republic of China–Israel relations

People's Republic of China–Israel relations
Sino-Israeli relations
Map indicating locations of Israel and People's Republic of China



People's Republic of China – Israel relations refers to international relations between the People's Republic of China and the State of Israel. Israel was the first country in the Middle East and one of the first in the world to recognize the People's Republic of China. However, due to China's initial refusal to recognise Israel, it was not until 1992 that normal diplomatic relations were established.[1] Since then, Israel and China have developed close commercial, military and strategic links.



Ties between the People's Republic of China and Israel were virtually non-existent until the 1980s, owing to China's support for the nations of the Muslim world who opposed the creation of Israel and the partition of Palestine in 1948. China chose to recognize the State of Palestine as proclaimed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Until the 1980s, China refused to grant visas to Israelis unless they held dual citizenship and carried a passport of a country other than Israel.[2] However, following the Sino-Soviet split and China's 1979 establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States, China began to develop a series of secret, non-official ties with Israel.[3]

China and Israel secretly began building military ties in the 1980s, exchanging visits of delegations of academicians, experts, businessmen and industrialists.[2] Reportedly, a large number of the tanks used in China's 1984 National Day parades were retrofitted by Israel from captured Six-Day War equipment.[3] China eased travel restrictions, while Israel reopened its consulate in Hong Kong (then under British administration), which would serve as the main point for diplomatic and economic contact between the two nations.[2] In the early 1990s, China joined a number of nations who established ties with Israel after the initiation of a peace process between Israel and the PLO in the early 1990s; it also desired to play a role in the peace process.

Development of bilateral relations

In November 1991, the Defense Minister of Israel Moshe Arens was reported to have paid a secret visit to China and believed to have negotiated the establishment of ties and expansion of military cooperation. On January 23, 1992, the Foreign Minister of Israel David Levy paid a four-day visit to Beijing, preceding the formal establishment of ties. Both nations had maintained some trade links, which stood at USD 30 million in 1992. Since then, the annual growth in trade has averaged 40%.[4] Bilateral trade rose to USD 3 billion in 2005 and is projected to rise to USD 5 billion by 2008 and USD 10 billion by 2010.[4][5] China is Israel's largest Asian trading partner[4] and has sought Israel's expertise in solar energy, manufacturing robotics, irrigation, construction, agricultural and water management and desalination technologies to combat drought and water shortages.[2][6] In turn, Israel has imported high-tech products and manufactured goods from China. There are more than 1,000 Israeli firms operating in China as of 2010. In particular, Chinese firms play an essential role in the $10-billion kosher foods industry, with 500 factories across China producing kosher food for a large American and Israeli market.[3]

In 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a high-profile visit to China to bolster trade and military cooperation and seek China's support over the conflict over Iran's nuclear proliferation.[5]

Military cooperation

Israel and China began extensive military cooperation as early as the 1980s, even though no formal diplomatic relations existed.[7][8][9][10] Some estimate that Israel sold arms worth USD 4 billion to China in this period.[7][9] China has looked to Israel for the arms and technology it wants but cannot acquire from both the United States and Russia. Israel has now become China's second-largest supplier of arms (following Russia).[7] China has purchased a wide array of military equipment and technology, including communications satellites.[7] The building of military cooperation and trade has softened China's historic anti-Israeli policy over Palestine and Middle East issues.[7] China has become a vital market for Israel's extensive military industries and arms manufacturers.[7] Israel has also limited its cooperation with the Republic of China (Taiwan) in order to foster closer ties with the People's Republic of China.[7] On 25 May 2011, the Commander of the People's Liberation Army Navy, Admiral Wu Shengli, during an official visit to Israel, met with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his Israeli counterpart, Rear Admiral Eliezer Marom.[11]

On 14 August 2011, General Chen Bingde, Chief of the People's Liberation Army General Staff Department, arrived for an official visit to Israel,[12] scheduled for three days.[13] This was the first visit of a Chinese military chief to the country. He came a guest of the Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, who received him with an honor guard at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv. [14] The visit came after Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s visit to China in June,[12] the first visit of a defense minister to the country in a decade. Bingde’s visit was part of a tour that included stops in the Ukraine and Russia.[14]

Economic cooperation

On 3 July 2011, Israel and the People's Republic of China entered into an economic cooperation agreement that aimed to boost trade between the two countries. According to Eliran Elimelech, Israel’s commercial attaché in Beijing, the agreement was expected to deepen ties between Israeli and Chinese businessmen in the short term, and in the medium to long term to improve trade conditions between the countries. In January 2011, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics stated that Israeli exports to China grew an annual 95 percent in 2010 to $2 billion.[15]

In September 2011, the Israeli Minister of Transport, Israel Katz, stated that China and Israel had entered negotiations regarding the construction of a major high-speed rail link joining the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. This joint project would permit the mass overland transport of Chinese goods to Israel and Eastern Europe, and would involve both Chinese and Israeli railway developers.[16] The following month, the Chinese and Israeli governments signed a memorandum of understanding regarding the joint construction of a 180-km (112-mile) railway linking the Israeli city of Eilat with the Negev Desert's Zin Valley.[17]


Israel's increasing defense cooperation with China has caused concern in the United States, which is the largest foreign supplier of military equipment to Israel. Owing to strategic rivalry and concerns over the security of Taiwan, the U.S. has pressured Israel against selling sophisticated equipment and technology to China.[10] Israel cancelled the sale to China of the Israeli-built Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) in 2000 in wake of pressure from the U.S., which threatened to cut off USD 2.8 billion in yearly aid if the deal went through.[18] Israel's decision drew condemnation from China, which stated that the cancellation would hurt bilateral ties.[8][18] U.S. intelligence also suspects that exported American Patriot missiles and Israel's indigenous Lavi jet aircraft technology have been shared with China.[8]

In 2010, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1929, imposing a fourth round of sanctions against Iran for its nuclear enrichment program. China ultimately supported this resolution, although initially, due to the strong Chinese-Iranian relationship, China opposed the sanctions. According to the New York Times, Israel lobbied for the sanctions by explaining to China the impact of any pre-emptive strike on Iran would have on the world oil supply, and hence on the Chinese economy.[19]

See also

External links


  1. ^ China marks 17 years with Israel, Haaretz, September 27, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Friedman, Thomas L. (1985-07-22). "Israel and China quietly form trade bonds". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  3. ^ a b c Berton, Peter. The Evolution of Sino-Israeli Relations. Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, Vol. IV, No. 3. September 2010, pp. 69-80.
  4. ^ a b c "China No 1 in Israeli Asian Trade". China Daily. 2000-11-09. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  5. ^ a b "Scandals follow Olmert to China". The Jerusalem Post. 2007-01-10. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  6. ^ "Israel-China "water-trade" to rise significantly". The Jerusalem Post. 2000-11-01. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "U.S. up in arms over Sino-Israeli ties". Asia Times. 2004-12-21. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  8. ^ a b c "Return of the Red Card: Israel-China-U.S. Triangle". Power and Interest News Report. 2005-05-23. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  9. ^ a b Friedman, Thomas L. (1985-07-22). "Israel and China quietly form trade bonds (pg. 2)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  10. ^ a b "China's weapon chase". BBC News. 2000-07-12. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  11. ^ Barbara Opall-Rome (25 May 2011). "PLA Navy Commander Meets Israeli Defense Leaders". DefenseNews. Retrieved 10 June 2011. 
  12. ^ a b Williams, Dan (14 August 2011). "Chinese military chief makes first visit to Israel". Reuters. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  13. ^ "China, Israel vow to improve ties". China Daily. Xinhua. 15 August 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Katz, Yaakov (15 August 2011). "Chinese army chief here to talk defense cooperation". JPost. Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  15. ^ Ackerman, Gwen (3 July 2011). "Israel Signs Cooperation Agreement With China". Bloomberg News. Retrieved 4 July 2011. "Israel and China today signed a cooperation agreement that aims to boost trade between the two countries." 
  16. ^ "Israel to Co-op with China in Railway Project"., 20 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
  17. ^ "Chinese to build railway to Eilat". YnetNews, 23 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
  18. ^ a b "Israel scraps China radar deal". BBC News. 2000-07-12. Retrieved 2008-06-11. 
  19. ^ Jacobs, Andrew (2010-06-08). "Israel Makes Case to China for Iran Sanctions". The New York Times. 

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