Chinese media decried a reported memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would commit Israel to not using Chinese equipment in building its 5G networks, calling the move "ungrateful."
Chen Weihua, a journalist for the Chinese state media outlet the China Daily, called the deal "scandalous and ungrateful."
"Chinese cities like Shanghai provided a safe haven to some 30,000 Jews fleeing Nazi Europe in WWII, but now Israel returns the favor by being a US poodle against China in 5G," tweeted Weihua on Saturday.
Israel is close to joining the US State Department’s “Clean Network,” announced earlier this month, which seeks to protect national assets and individual privacy “from aggressive intrusions by malign actors, such as the Chinese Communist Party,” the State Department’s website reads.
The Global Times, a Chinese state tabloid, warned that the deal could "affect normal economic, trade and investment activities between China and Israel."
"China-Israel relations are unlikely to be substantially hit by groundless allegations by some senior US officials, but China should act more cautiously when trading with or investing in Israel," wrote the Times.
Xinhua, China's official state press agency, reported that China had called on the international community to "reject US hegemonic interference in other countries' 5G cooperation."
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian called the US a "hacker state" on Friday, questioning how the term "clean network" could be used when the "shadowy figure of the United States can be found in cyber espionage activities from PRISM to Equation Group to ECHELON?"
Lijian called the US claim of protecting the privacy and individual liberties of citizens a "high-sounding pretext."
"I'm afraid what they have in mind is not a 'clean network,' but an 'American Network;' not a 'secure 5G network,' but a 'U.S. surveillance network;' not protection of 'privacy and liberties' of the individual, but consolidation of 'digital hegemony' of the United States," said Lijian, according to Xinhua.
Lijian warned that "Such practices run counter to the fair competition principle and go against the common interests of the international community."
"We believe the world can see certain U.S. politicians for who they really are, reject U.S. hegemonic interference in other countries' 5G cooperation, and uphold a fair, just, open and non-discriminatory business environment," added Lijian.
The network is made up of countries that meet the State Department’s Digital Trust Standards on matters of data privacy, security and human rights. The standards are based in part on the 2019 Prague Proposals drawn up by representatives of over 30 countries, as well as the EU and NATO for what countries must take into consideration when evaluating vendors for 5G networks, which the new generation of Internet services. The Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia recently signed Clean Network MOUs with the US.
Israel opened the tender to build its 5G network on August 4, the day before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the expansion of the Clean Network initiative.
In order for Israel to be considered a “clean” country, the Communications Ministry would have to choose companies that are not Chinese to build the network and not use any components from China.
The Communications Ministry declined to comment because the matter is "very, very sensitive," a spokesman said.
The US has urged Israel and other allies against allowing Chinese companies to participate in other major infrastructure projects, as well, citing concerns for national security and privacy.
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.