Author Topic: China's Belt and Road initiative: What's in it for Israel?  (Read 646 times)

adroth

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China's Belt and Road initiative: What's in it for Israel?
« on: July 13, 2018, 01:39:35 PM »
China's Belt and Road initiative: What's in it for Israel?
The initiative is "the new game in town" for China - and perhaps Israel.
By TERRANCE MINTNER
January 10, 2018 21:18

https://www.jpost.com/Jpost-Tech/Business-and-Innovation/Chinas-Belt-and-Road-initiative-Whats-in-it-for-Israel-533408

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Given Belt and Road’s centrality to Chinese economic policy, it warrants taking a close look at what the initiative is and what it can do – and already is doing – for Israel.

What is Belt and Road, broadly speaking? Richard Griffiths is a professor of international studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. His recent book, Revitalising the Silk Road: China’s Belt and Road Initiative, takes a long-term, historical perspective of the Silk Road trading routes. Griffiths shows how the Silk Road – by connecting Europe to Chinese civilization thousands of years ago – reshaped much of the world’s commerce and culture. He then looks at how Xi is reinventing the memory of this ancient route for our times.

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Right off the bat, it’s easy for Westerners to be skeptical. We are used to seeing European countries or America as the privileged players when it comes to these kinds of global investments. China, in this sense, seems the undeserving upstart.

“Because it is China, and because China is a ‘rising power,’ the initiative has been greeted by suspicion and scorn – its ambition derided and its occasional setbacks magnified to the point of ridicule,” Griffiths said.

Instead of heaping on more disparagement, Griffiths offered three points to better place China’s efforts in context. First, he said, China’s plans to improve its energy and transportation position in Eurasia are not new. Second, China has been part of these planning efforts, though not as the leading partner. Third, national and international aid organizations and private businesses have been, and still are, active in constructing infrastructure in the region.

“What is new and different,” he said, “is China’s willingness to commit its financial resources and expertise to making things happen.”

So, what does Israel stand to gain from it all? Israel is already gaining and can do so directly, Griffiths said.

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But Israel can also gain indirectly, Griffiths said.

“Behind the efforts to improve connectivity lies the rationale that lowering ‘transaction costs’ [the costs involved in doing business] will stimulate demand,” he said. “Following this logic, Israel could work on reducing the costs of obtaining trade documentation or the time lost waiting at border crossings. Alternatively, it could more actively cut trade costs. A railway to Eilat, or between Ashdod and Eilat, would produce a major time-saving over the Suez route for both direct and for transit trade.”

‘The new game in town’

Offering another perspective on Israel’s interests in the initiative is Alexander Pevzner, founding director of the Chinese Media Center, the only Israeli outlet that engages Chinese media in systematic dialogue over important issues and professional exchange. The center endeavors to promote understanding between the two peoples, thus enhancing bilateral relations.

When it comes to Belt and Road, Pevzner, who recently sat down with the Post, said it’s “the new game in town.”

“Though it might sound a bit bombastic, you can call it a herald of economic integration on a scale that hasn’t been previously seen,” he said.

It’s a bit like the EU, not in the sense of political, but of economic integration, Pevzner said, and as such, it offers an opportunity for Israel to participate in economic cooperation on a global scale. “If you are not there at the table, you miss out by definition,” he said.

THIS IS why Pevzner believes Belt and Road is so vital to Israel’s interests. Just by being involved in it, sitting at the table, Israel has a connection to countries with which it does not have diplomatic ties.

“So even if the immediate economic benefits are not so obvious – though I think there are and will be such benefits – it’s important for Israel just to be there,” he said.

But why have Muslim countries not opposed Israel’s participation in Belt and Road like they did for other international investment groups? Pevzner cited Israel wanting to join the Asian Development Bank in 1993. In the end, it couldn’t because Muslim countries were opposed.

“Now, because of the Belt and Road initiative, we are there with Iran and Pakistan, as well as many Muslim and Arab countries, a situation that demonstrates China’s influence in bringing countries together,” he said. “That is a huge positive for Israel.”

Aside from these political dividends, how exactly can Israel leverage the plan to benefit economically? Pevzner said there are two different stages of Belt and Road that are important to keep front and center.

The first stage relates to big infrastructure projects the Chinese are already carrying out in Israel or are planning for the future. These projects are often bridges, railways and ports. For example, he said, a new port is being built in Ashdod by a Chinese company, an initiative that is part of Belt and Road.

There are also several railway projects currently under way, also by Chinese companies, including a light-rail line in Tel Aviv.

But it is the second stage where Israeli companies have much more to gain, Pevzner said. For example, once the rail lines or ports have been built and cities are connected, Israeli companies can step in to make technological improvements, he said, adding: “This can be urban development and green infrastructure. Here, Israeli companies – clean-energy or smart city companies – have a lot to offer.”

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So is the new Silk Road model becoming the preferred one around the world when it comes to infrastructure development? Do Israel and other countries find the Chinese investment model more attractive than those of the US, Europe, the World Bank and the IMF? Griffiths said the answer is “yes and no.”

“The two do not exclude each other, and they never will,” he said. “China does not have enough money to do everything itself. But foreign governments do find its funds attractive for several reasons: The decision-making is fast, the loans usually cover about 80% of construction costs, and recipients are co-determinants in what gets done. This gives less-scrupulous governments the chance to grandstand for political spin-off today and pay back when long gone. However, there is no evidence that China is worse than other countries in this respect.”

As far as Israel is concerned, Pevzner said if Belt and Road spurs new construction and urban development, it will likely translate into more business for the Start-Up Nation.

“The Chinese plan simply means a bigger pie,” he said, “and if there is a bigger pie, there is a chance – by no means guaranteed – that Israel will get more lucrative business opportunities and enjoy a decent slice.”


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« Last Edit: July 13, 2018, 02:35:24 PM by adroth »

adroth

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Re: China's Belt and Road initiative: What's in it for Israel?
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2018, 12:14:34 AM »
Free trade and top tech: what China wants from Israel
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 10:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 March, 2017, 6:05am

Liu Zhen
 
zhen.liu@scmp.com
 
https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2080922/free-trade-and-top-tech-what-china-wants-israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wraps up his trip to China on Wednesday, with technology and investment two areas of overlapping interest for the two countries. Israel is a key component in China’s “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative and China is keen to tap into Israel’s advances in agricultural technology.

China wish list from Israel includes:

• Belt-and-road-related infrastructure projects

China is bidding to build a high-speed railway connecting the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, a route seen as an alternative to the Suez Canal.

Chinese companies have had some success in winning tenders in Israel. Shanghai International Port Group won a 25-year operating concession to run the Haifa port in northern Israel, while China Harbour Engineering is contracted to build a US$876 million new port in Ashdod.

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• Military cooperation

The two governments disagree on many security issues. Israel does not approve of China’s push into the South China Sea, while China supports calls for a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank.

But Beijing and Tel Aviv forged military links before they formally established diplomatic ties in 1992. Since the 1980s, the People’s Liberation Army has spent billions on Israeli arms and technology to develop its fighter jets, missiles, satellites and submarines.

China and Israel set up task force to boost trade

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adroth

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Re: China's Belt and Road initiative: What's in it for Israel?
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2018, 11:41:38 AM »
U.S. NAVY MAY STOP DOCKING IN HAIFA AFTER CHINESE TAKE OVER PORT
Concerns prompt ‘review’ of Shanghai agreement within Israel’s inner security cabinet, sources say.
BY MICHAEL WILNER   DECEMBER 15, 2018 21:25 
4 minute read.

https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/US-Navy-may-stop-docking-in-Haifa-after-Chinese-take-over-port-574414?fbclid=IwAR337JUhUwGi8cwr_KtdI6asFUR9bJ1RJA0oUcXrX78ZWiAZa3cIkfGBU1I

WASHINGTON – The US Navy has acknowledged that its longstanding operations in Haifa may change once a Chinese firm takes over the civilian port in 2021, prompting Israel’s national security cabinet to revisit the arrangement, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
 
Haifa, the nation’s largest port city, regularly hosts joint US-Israeli naval drills and visits from American vessels. But a 2015 agreement between Israel’s Transportation Ministry and Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) – a company in which the Chinese government has a majority stake – has raised intelligence and security concerns that are only now prompting an interagency review.
 
That agreement granted SIPG control over the port for 25 years. The Chinese company has committed $2 billion to the project and, according to state-run media, plans to transform the port’s bay terminal into the largest harbor in the country.
 
A representative of the Sixth Fleet said the navy’s partnership with Israel remains “steadfast.”
 
“Our US Navy ships frequently visit Haifa, Israel, for both US-Israel bilateral military activity and port calls,” Commander Kyle Raines told the Post, when asked whether China’s coming presence might affect fleet operations in the Mediterranean city.
 
“For now, there are no changes to our operations in Israel,” the commander continued. “I can’t speculate on what might or might not occur in 2021.”
 
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adroth

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Re: China's Belt and Road initiative: What's in it for Israel?
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2019, 04:37:18 AM »
Israel-China Experts Downplay Impact of Haifa Port Decision
"Israeli authorities were warned that the Haifa Port deal was dangerous for a long, long time, but infrastructure is secondary to technology in the way that China views Israel as a resource"
BY EYTAN HALON   JUNE 18, 2019 13:31 

https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Israel-China-experts-downplay-impact-of-Haifa-Port-decision-576988

If Israel chooses to reverse its decision to permit a Chinese company to manage Haifa Port from 2021, a crisis will not erupt between the two governments, experts on China-Israel relations told The Jerusalem Post.

The Chinese management of the port was one of the issues that US National Security Adviser John Bolton discussed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit here this week. The port is a frequent dock for the US Sixth Fleet, and Washington is concerned that China will use the harbor to improve its standing in the Middle East and potentially gather intelligence on US interests.

The Post reported last month that the US Navy might change its longstanding operations there once the Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) – a company in which the Chinese government has a majority stake – takes over management of the site in 2021. Israel signed an agreement in 2015 with SIPG to upgrade and manage the port.

Sam Chester – vice president at Indigo Global, an investment advisory firm focused on China, Israel and other emerging markets – told the Post that stripping SIPG of the deal would be frustrating for Beijing but not a deal-breaker for future trade.

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“China also sees immense value in Israel’s innovation ecosystem. This is perhaps most reflected by the appointment of Wang Qishan as the [Chinese] head of the Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation.

“The fact that amidst a trade war with the US, China sent the second most powerful person in the country, President Xi’s right-hand man, to Israel sends a powerful message that Israel is important to China. I think the relationship is strong enough to withstand the breakdown of any individual deal.”

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