We can reasonably guess where four of the five permanent members of the UN’s
Security Council stand regarding action in Syria. This leaves China, as usual,
as the question mark. There seems to be no end of hostilities in the Middle
East, and China’s seat on the Security Council is permanent. Thus, I believe it
would behoove observers to know more about China’s allegiances in this part of
China is frequently considered an ally of Syra and the PLO. As
proof, China’s thinly veiled criticisms of Israel’s use of force is frequently
cited. However, appearances can be deceiving. The reality is quite
Don’t mistake China’s rhetoric for reality. In fact, China’s
relationships with Syria and the PLO aren’t what they used to be. The reason is
that China’s relationship with the State of Israel isn’t what it used to be. In
the mere 20 years since China and Israel established diplomatic relations,
ancient ties between the nations of China and Israel have strengthened to an
Unbeknownst to many people, the history of the Jews
in China is both long and friendly. When Marco Polo “discovered” China, he found
that the Jews were already very well established there and quite prosperous. In
the 20th century, China proved to be a hospitable sanctuary for the Jewish
people escaping the Russian Revolution and the Holocaust. We even have a Chinese
Oskar Schindler in Dr. Ho Feng-Shan, China’s consul-general in Vienna, who saved
the lives of thousands of Jews.
In fact, in consideration of the
centuries of peaceful contact between the two peoples, a case can be made that
China has been the single most hospitable country to the Jewish people over a
Last semester, I had the pleasure of hosting a visiting
professor from Beijing’s University of International Business and Economics to
exchange ideas about the teaching of international finance. I learned that all
over Chinese academia these days, there is a veritable explosion of interest in
the Jewish people, Judaism and Israel. I had not know about this, but was not
To say that China respects Israel would be a tremendous
In fact, China has come to admire greatly both the nation
and State of Israel in many important areas (with the notable exception of
cuisine, in which case the admiration goes demonstrably the other
China greatly admires the strength of the Jewish Diaspora, its
educational and intellectual achievements and its entrepreneurial successes.
China greatly admires the innovation of Israel’s technology and biotech
industries, the resilience of a state surrounded by enemies, and the fearsome
Israel Defense Forces.
The thin reed of solidarity for Syria and the PLO,
extended when Mao’s communism mired China in the Third World, is no match for
present day exigencies.
To wit, Israel is now the second largest provider
of military armaments to China. One does not buy military armaments from just
anyone and certainly not from someone one doesn’t trust implicitly. These
military commitments speak far, far louder than thinly veiled
Also, never discussed in polite company is that China itself
hasn’t always had the warmest relations with some people of the Muslim religion.
There is a western Chinese province named Xinjiang, which borders Afghanistan
The vast majority of the population in Xinjiang are Muslim
and of an ethnicity quite different from the rest of China. The indigenous
Uighur people there have long desired to form East Turkestan. Unfortunately,
flying the flag of jihad, a splinter militant group has been very deadly in
Despite this, China sees no need to ruffle feathers with Muslim
countries, especially since it sees strong business potential in the Middle
East. Some politicians resent this but there can be no serious kvetching that
China considers business potential in its foreign policy.
Can you name
any country which doesn’t do the same? Go ahead and try.
The fact is that no country doesn’t.
It would take some
great chutzpah for any country, especially those in the G7, to claim that its
own relationships with Middle East countries don’t stem at least partly from
Thus, China’s hard currency will continue to flow
into Israel even as its words may provide moral support to Syria and the PLO.
But those words should not matter to Israel. More than any other people of the
world, the Jews know how to shrug off bitter words. They deal regularly with
much, much harsher words in the UN General Assembly. The goyim, on the other
hand, don’t know from that and would have wilted long ago under such
I think it’s entirely possible that Chinese officials give
Israel the ol’ wink and nod before they launch into their public spiel. There is
a stereotype about East Asians in general and the Chinese in particular that
some people find offensive.
I happen not to ,but in any case,
inscrutability in modern geopolitics is hardly a liability.
Justin Lee is a lecturer in the University of Maryland’s Center for East Asian
Studies and the Department of Finance. A veteran chartered financial analyst, he
is the author of The Chinese Way to Wealth and Prosperity (McGraw-Hill, 2012)
and speaks frequently on the kindred values of the Chinese and the Jews. His
website is www.michaeljustinlee.com