Chinese envoy rails against US ‘bullying’ Israel over investments

“China never set obstacles to US-Israel cooperation, so I don’t think it makes any sense for the US to question China-Israel cooperation,” Zhai Jun added.

Carmel Tunnel Project 311 (photo credit: Ron Friedman)
Carmel Tunnel Project 311
(photo credit: Ron Friedman)
The US is using “bullying tactics” to curb Chinese investments in Israel, Beijing’s Special Envoy for the Middle East Zhai Jun said Monday during a tour of the region.
Zhai’s comments come three weeks before the first meeting of a new Israeli inter-ministerial committee to review major foreign investments, established in light of US security concerns with the massive Chinese investment in vital Israeli infrastructure projects, including the management of the Haifa Port.
In a press briefing at the end of his trip to the region, which included meetings with Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Zhai accused the US of trying to block China’s economic development.
“The US is not very happy about China’s development and rapid growth, and tries to make trouble,” he said. “They are using bullying tactics to curb and contain China’s development and set obstacles to China-Israel cooperation.
“China never set obstacles to US-Israel cooperation, so I don’t think it makes any sense for the US to question China-Israel cooperation,” he added.
Prior to US intervention, economic cooperation between Israel and China, “based on mutual respect, mutual benefit, a win-win following market-based rules,” was not a problem, Zhai said.
Chinese investments in Israel has been one of the few sticking points between Israel and the US under US President Donald Trump, as Washington and Beijing are in a trade war.
Israel prioritizes its relationship with the US, its most important strategic ally, but has sought to avoid discouraging Chinese investments in Israel’s economy, which have increased in recent years.
In recent years, China has invested in the Carmel Tunnel project in Haifa, the Tel Aviv light rail’s Red Line, and the ports of Ashdod and Haifa. As well, major food producer Tnuva was sold to a Chinese firm.
The new committee will meet for the first time on January 1 to review investments is meant to balance encouraging foreign investments and economic prosperity without sacrificing national security. It will include representatives from the Finance, and Defense Ministries as well as the National Security Council, and observers from the Foreign and Economics Ministries and National Economics Council.
Zhai said Katz welcomed more Chinese investment in Israel, and that economic cooperation “serves a common need and serves the people of both countries.”
The Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the meeting.
An official in Zhai’s delegation lamented that the ongoing political instability in Israel, with two elections in one year and a third likely to be declared this week, has negatively impacted ties with China.
The lack of a new government has prevented high-level exchanges of delegations between the two countries, seen as a vital factor in relations between Jerusalem and Beijing.
The lack of a coalition has also held up a free trade agreement between Israel and China, which has undergone seven rounds of negotiations and is almost complete. However, the agreement would have to be authorized by the Knesset, which is will be dissolved on Wednesday if no candidate for prime minister is chosen.
China is Israel’s third-largest trading partner.