Chinese army chief due in Israel next week

In signal of growing Sino-Israeli ties, meeting between Beijing’s top general, IDF chief Gantz follows Barak’s trip to China 2 months ago.

China's Gen. Chen Bingde 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
China's Gen. Chen Bingde 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
In a sign of growing Sino-Israeli ties, Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, will visit Israel next week as a guest of IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen.Benny Gantz.
It is the first visit of a Chinese military chief to Israel.
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Defense officials said that Bingde’s visit did not signify a change in Israeli policy regarding defense relations and exports to the Chinese military. Israel significantly downgraded its defense ties with China in recent years due to American pressure, and Israeli companies are forbidden to sell weaponry to the Chinese military.
Bingde’s visit comes after Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s visit to China in June, the first visit of a defense minister to the country in a decade. Bingde will visit Israel as part of a three-country tour that includes stops in Russia and Ukraine and will meet individually with Barak, Gantz and other members of the General Staff.
Senior defense officials said recently that all of Israel’s ties with China are under careful US scrutiny and in most cases are approved ahead of time by the Pentagon.
Israel attaches a great deal of importance to ties with China due to the role it plays on the United Nations Security Council. A recent UN report accused China of supplying Iran with missile technology and components from North Korea.
When Barak was prime minister in 2000, he gave into pressure from the United States and suspended the sale of four $250 million advanced early warning Phalcon aircraft to China as they were installed with American technology.
In 2005, Israeli-US defense ties hit a snag after Israel agreed to upgrade Israel Aerospace Industries drones that were sold to Beijing in the 1990s. As a result, the US downgraded Israel’s participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, which was reinstated several years later.
Despite the ban on arms sales, Israeli- Chinese defense ties have picked up in the past 18 months.
On May 25, Adm. Wu Shengli of the People’s Liberation Army Navy visited Israel and met with Barak and OC Navy V.-Adm. Eliezer Marom. In 2010, a number of IDF generals including head of the Home Front Command and of Military Intelligence visited Beijing.
In June, Israel Aerospace Industries reached the second stage of a competition to set up a factory in China to build executive jets with the Aviation Industry Corporation of China. If IAI wins the tender, which is strictly for civilian aircraft, it will be the first large aviation deal between Israel and China in over a decade.