Why Israel should think about re-pivoting towards China


China won’t be replacing the U.S. as Israel’s strongest ally anytime soon, but Israel should still look to build stronger bridges with the newest ‘responsible adult’ in the international community.

By Niv Horesh |

Two recent developments raise the question of precisely where China is heading in the long run in terms of its geopolitical ambitions, and – domestically – how secure the Communist Party’s grip on power actually is. They also beg the question: What conclusions should Israel draw from these events, and what kind of relationship should it seek with the superpower-in-the-making?

The first of these events occurred last week, when Bo Xilai, one of China’s most popular politicians, was convicted of serious abuse of power. The trial once again drew China into the Western media’s limelight for all the wrong reasons, at least as far as the Communist Party was concerned. Quite naturally, Chinese state media has portrayed the conviction as a major achievement in President Xi Jinping’s new campaign to stamp out corruption at the highest echelons of the Party. Western commentators, however, view Bo’s ouster as the cynical outcome of a purely personal power struggle. The second was China’s endorsement of Vladimir Putin’s stance during the recent Syrian crisis – similarly noted with suspicion in the West.

China’s resurgence on the world stage and the roaring success the market reforms there (first launched in 1978) have proven are no longer a secret. Evidently, China is no longer perceived as “the sick man of Asia” as it had been at the beginning of the 20th century. Neither is it necessarily associated with communist austerity. Nevertheless, it seems some misconceptions about the life-style in China and the country’s ultimate aims still persist in the West.

In Israel, too, one is more likely to hear of China as the world’s factory for cheap consumer goods of dubious quality, or at best as an “emerging” market, than as a superpower in the making. To be sure, the prospect of Chinese state-run construction firms being invited to complete the Tel-Aviv to Eilat high-speed train project, or talk of such firms being permitted to erect high-rise tenements that would resolve the housing affordability crisis, might change China’s image in Israel somewhat. However, the American-mindedness of Israeli public discourse will not vanish overnight.


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