China and Israel are deepening their trade and diplomatic relations as Beijing looks to expand its international influence with the Belt and Road initiative, China Daily reported.
The announcement comes after reports of the growing success of Chinese investment in Israel, and the announcement that China will host a peace symposium on the Palestinian issue, which has been endorsed by both Israel and Palestine.
In a state visit to Beijing in March this year, Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, described Israeli-Chinese cooperation as a “marriage made in heaven,” according to World Israel News. During a meeting with President Xi earlier this week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on China, which supports a two-state solution, to step up its presence in the Middle East, Reuters reported.
The strengthening of diplomatic ties follows a wave of Chinese investment into Israel. Thomson Reuters data shows that “Chinese investment into Israel jumped more than tenfold to a record $16.5 billion” last year.
Chinese money has targeted Israel’s “booming high-tech industry” in particular, according to CNBC. As Chinese investors have faced an increase in regulation and protectionism in the US and EU, especially after the Trump administration took office at the White House, Israeli assets have been comparatively easier to access. Eli Tidhar, a partner in Deloitte Israel’s strategy consulting team, told CNBC it was “less and less awkward” for an Israeli company to raise money from China.
Although the Chinese presence in Israel is still not yet comparable to the “massive presence” of Western companies, according to CNBC, this may change, as several Israeli flagships—such as Adama and Tnuva—have already been bought out by Chinese investors. A recent study from economic think tank Dun & Bradstreet calculated that “20 percent of all venture capital entering Israel today comes from China,” China Daily reported.
Israel is also being exposed to more Chinese hard power and infrastructure as they look to play a greater role in the Belt and Road initiative, Israel Defense magazine reported. Chinese infrastructure projects in Israel include digging the Carmel tunnels in Haifa, constructing railways in Tel Aviv, and expanding seaports at Ashdod and Haifa.
Writing for Tower magazine, Aryeh Tepper, Academic Director of The Glazer-BGU Israel Studies Seminar for Chinese Students, said the Chinese-Israeli relationship has “never been this strong.”
Cover image from China Daily