An article in The Jerusalem Post almost caused a diplomatic crisis between Israel and China on Monday, when it published an interview with Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu who warned Israel not to rely too heavily on China.
According to Yaakov Katz, editor-in-chief of the English-language Israel-based newspaper, a Chinese diplomat subsequently called him and demanded that the Post remove the interview with Wu, otherwise China would downgrade relations with the State of Israel and sever ties with the newspaper.
“Needless to say, story ain’t going anywhere,” Katz tweeted.
In the interview, Wu warned Israel that China does not do business in the manner of other countries and that Israel should be careful not to jeopardize its security through careless business relations with China.
“China is an authoritarian country and they do business in a very different philosophy,” Wu said in a video interview with the Post. “Sometimes they use trade as a weapon, and we have seen them practicing their weaponized trade relations with many other countries. They did it to Lithuania, they did it to the Czech Republic and they also did it to Australia. Sometimes they try to do that to Taiwan as well. So, when we do business with an authoritarian country, we need to be very careful. We shouldn’t allow these kinds of business relations to jeopardize our national security. And I understand pretty well that Israel also places national security very high on the government agenda.”
Wu also told the Post that Taiwan wants to expand its ties with Israel.
“Israel is a like-minded country and therefore we want to make a better relationship with Israel,” Wu said.
Israel, however, does not recognize Taiwan. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently instructed its diplomats around the world “to refrain from inviting Taiwanese diplomats to official events or participating in events organized by Taiwanese representatives,” according to the Times of Israel.
Wu’s warning to Israel comes at a time when Israel has been growing more dependent upon the Communist authoritarian state, while the latter presents a security threat to both Israeli and American interests.
In 2021, China became Israel’s largest source of imports, surpassing the United States for the first time with imports at $10.7 billion, up from $7.7 billion in 2020. In April this year, Israel for the first time added the Chinese yuan to its central bank reserves and is currently on its way to a free trade agreement with the country.
More concerning, however, are the security risks and dependencies that stem from China’s deep involvement in Israeli infrastructure projects – such as the new port terminal in Haifa Bay that is run by the majority state-owned company Shanghai International Port and the Tel Aviv light rail. Additionally, China has been investing heavily in the Israeli high tech sector for years, a fact that could result in technology transfers for the benefit of China’s military ambitions.
A Rand report written in 2020, entitled “Chinese Investment in Israeli Technology and Infrastructure, Security Implications for Israel and the United States,” concluded that “China seeks Israel's advanced technology and values Israel's location as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.”
“Chinese investments in Israel have grown substantially and include investments in high-tech companies that produce sensitive technologies, as well as the construction and operation of key infrastructure projects. Chinese investment in sensitive technologies and construction of major Israeli infrastructure projects present distinct concerns for Israel and the United States.”
More recently, it was also revealed that China is most likely spying on Israeli commercial and military targets.
“China sees Israel as a leading technological power, and therefore it is not impossible that alongside its public cooperation with Israel, Beijing is engaged in espionage activity against blue and white companies and institutions – civilian, military, and government alike,” Nir Ben Moshe, former director of Security of the Defense Establishment in the Israeli Ministry of Defense and currently a guest researcher in the Israel-China program at the Institute for National Security Studies, wrote.
“Israel's advanced capabilities in elite technology – cyber, medicine, agriculture and more –have the potential to contribute technologically to almost every aspect of China's build-up plans. Thus, Israel is an attractive source of technologies needed in China, as explicitly expressed by the Comprehensive Partnership for Innovation signed between the countries in 2017.”
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.