India and Israel have an extensive economic, military, and strategic relationship. While Israel battles only Russia to be the second-largest defence equipment supplier to India, it is PM Narendra Modi’s government that has further expanded bilateral relations through several free trade agreements in areas like agriculture and biotechnology.
China has a well-growing market and has emerged as the world’s second-biggest economy with unmatched global influence. It comes as no wonder as Israel attempts to strengthen its ties and with China, just like it did with India.
Realizations have dawned upon various countries that ‘soft power’ helps build a diplomatic bridge across the world. While seeking to resolve several complex strategic and economic problems, it is culture and goodwill that aids in reducing differences between countries.
Bollywood films like Secret Superstar and Dangal which stars actor Aamir Khan have won the hearts of people and dominated the Chinese film markets. Cultural construct has made Bollywood a symbol of “soft diplomacy” beyond Buddhism, yoga and food in China.
Israel desires that its technologies should be used by China, economically and militarily, so that Chinese side to have a favourable view of cultural activities of the Jews living there. In fact, it is China which accounts for one-third of the investment in Israel’s high technology programmes.
“In China’s view, Israel, despite its small size, stands out for its scientific achievements, its number of startups, and the number of its Nobel Prize laureates,” according to Matan Vilnai, former Israeli Ambassador to China.
Although Jews in China are fewer than 2,500, their existence is what gives China and Israel a chance to deepen their diplomatic relations. Economic ties between China and Israel have paced unquestionably fast in recent years. In addition to commercial links, the Israelis have also been working towards forging stronger political and cultural synergy between the two countries.
Developments in areas such as student exchange programs, academic education programs and tourism are affecting the co-operation between Israel and China positively. Having taken several steps for education in China, Israel has encouraged the opening of many academic programs to introduce itself to the population of China.
Several Israeli educational institutions are opening up their campuses in China. Divisions and centres on Israeli, Judaic and Hebrew studies have been opened in significant Chinese academic institutions, like Nanjing University, Henan University and Shandong University. Moreover, in addition to 100 post-doctoral fellowships per year at Israeli educational institutions, 350 undergraduate scholarships are being given solely to Chinese and Indian students.
In addition to education, tourism is another aspect that increases Israel’s cultural appeal. Tourism furthers Israel’s relations with the Chinese community across borders. In 2017, the number of Chinese tourists to visit Israel was roughly 123,000.
Furthermore, Israel has risen to be a shining star in China’s Middle East policy. China, which has well-recognized relations with many Arab countries and Iran through the years, has diversified its Middle Eastern strategies by making Israel a significant point of the Maritime Silk Road Project.
The growing China and Israel relationship is clearly benefiting both sides. In Israel, the former has found a new market to invest in and a new source of cutting-edge expertise. For Israel, the relationship is the latest success of Netanyahu’s strategy of emerging ties beyond the United States and the EU; China is the world’s most populous country and also a market for massive Israeli exports.
Although the economic and political corporation between Israel and China has provoked reactions from the United States, Israel is seemingly continuing diplomatic relations with China and establishing its soft power there.
OpEd By Salim Yeniacun. Contributions and Edited By Alisha Upadhyay