Israel and China celebrate 30 years of ties amid US pressure

Yair Lapid and Chinese VP Wang Qishan signed an agreement for cooperation and dialogue between government ministries for the next three years at the China-Israel joint committee meeting.

The joint Israel-China Innovation Conference, with the participation of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, among other in Tel Aviv, October 25, 2018 (photo credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)
The joint Israel-China Innovation Conference, with the participation of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, among other in Tel Aviv, October 25, 2018
(photo credit: KOBI RICHTER/TPS)

Israel and China celebrated 30 years of diplomatic relations by signing a three-year cooperation plan on Monday, even as the US continues to call for Israel to limit Chinese investments in technologies that could pose a security risk.

During a videoconference meeting of the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan signed an agreement for cooperation and dialogue between government ministries for the next three years.

The US has in recent years warned Israel against allowing China to invest in necessary infrastructure and dual-use technologies that could be used for espionage and lead to other security breaches.

The security cabinet and Defense, Public Security and Foreign ministries have been engaged in discussions about how Jerusalem should act as tensions between Washington and Beijing are on the rise, in light of its strategic relationship with the US, while not wanting to lose business and investments from China, Israel’s third-largest trading partner.

Lapid touted China’s and Israel’s innovative spirit at the meeting.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chinese VP Wang Qishan attend the Committee on Innovation in Israel-China Foreign Ministry (credit: GPO/KOBI GIDEON)Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Chinese VP Wang Qishan attend the Committee on Innovation in Israel-China Foreign Ministry (credit: GPO/KOBI GIDEON)

“The Chinese, like the Israelis, are not afraid of new ideas,” he said. “There is a built-in curiosity at the national level in both of our nations. Give us a new and exciting idea, and we will gather around it, speak about it enthusiastically, [and] immediately check where it comes from and how to improve it.”

The China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation is the central mechanism through which China and Israel cooperate, Lapid said.

The committee brings together 15 government ministries and agencies on each side and emphasizes economic ties. It was first convened in 2015, and this was its fifth meeting.

Science and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Energy Minister Karin Elharrar also took part in the meeting, as did representatives of the Economy, Agriculture, Environmental Protection, Health, and Culture and Sport ministries.

In addition, the Chinese and Israeli presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers exchanged letters in honor of 30 years of diplomatic ties between the countries.

Israel has five diplomatic missions in China: an embassy in Beijing, consulates in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, as well as a consulate in Hong Kong.

The Foreign Ministry said China and the Jewish people have an “ancient connection,” starting with the Jewish community in Kaifeng, founded a millennium ago, and continuing with Jewish communities in Harbin, Tianjin and Shanghai, to which Jews were able to escape from the Holocaust and, earlier, from pogroms in Russia.

“This connection is based on mutual appreciation and respect between two nations based on ancient cultures,” the Foreign Ministry said.