NEW YORK – The Israel Project, a nonprofit educational organization that aims to provide facts about Israel and the Middle East to the public, is stepping up its efforts in China in order to forge an understanding and create a strong relationship between China and Israel.

“The Israel-China relationship is critical to the future, and we are proud to launch this program, which will give facts and insights to Chinese reporters and leaders,” said the group’s president, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.

This new venture is headed by Alex Pevzner, who spent nine years in Asia and worked as a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires’ Taipei bureau. Pevzner studied international relations and East Asian studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and has also studied modern Chinese at Tsinghua University in Beijing and classical Chinese at National Taiwan Normal University.

In broad terms, Pevzner said, the new China endeavor has several discrete goals. One is to “ensure that China exercises political power in favor of – or at least provision for – Israel’s physical security,” Pevzner explained. The project is also meant to foster Sino-Israeli cooperation in economic and military sectors, particularly with regard to hi-tech, agri-tech and new sustainable energy sources.

Israel and China did not establish official diplomatic relations until 1992, when Israel’s embassy opened in Beijing. Israel has had consulates in Shanghai and Hong Kong since 1993.

Since then, economic and commercial connections have taken root, with Israeli trade representative offices located in both southern and northeast China.

The greatest cooperation between the two countries economically focuses on agricultural technology, venture capital and green technology, The Israel Project’s research states, with bilateral trade between Israel and China standing at $4.6 billion in 2009.

Trade agreements between the two nations have facilitated economic ties. As of 2010, according to The Israel Project, the Israeli government has given China $1b. in preferential government loans. Another $550 million has been used for various projects in 29 different regions in China.

Agreements on joint research and development initiatives have also been signed by the two countries.

Israel provided $3m. in aid to China after the Sichuan Province earthquake of May 2008. The aid was made possible by Israeli company donations, the Israel Defense Forces and United Israel Appeal, and consisted of supplies such as medical equipment, tents, blankets, water purification systems and medicine. China turned down Israel’s offers to send an extraction and rescue team and field hospital.

As The Israel Project’s Laura Kam, director of global affairs, wrote in The Jerusalem Post, “because China’s interests in the Middle East are relatively recent, and Israel is still largely a blank slate to most Chinese, we have a real opportunity to make a significant impact on its decision- making and views concerning us and the wider Middle East. A deeper understanding of Israel and the context of its actions will lead to policies that will make us more secure and enhance prospects for closer bilateral relations.”

Counterterrorism methods are also a common goal of the two nations, according to The Israel Project.

The Chinese Ministry of Public Security issued its first listing of internal terrorist organizations in 2003, four of which have links with al-Qaida: the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Eastern Turkistan Liberation Organization, World Uyghur Youth Congress and the East Turkistan Information Centre. The Chinese government blames these organizations for the 1997 attacks on the Chinese Embassy and consulate in Ankara and Istanbul.

There are nearly 10,000 Jews living in China, and eight Chabad-Lubavitch centers.

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