Monday, August 15, 2011
This is one of those important stories you won't see reported on much.
General Chen Bingde, Chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army of China arrived in Israel on an official 3 day visit to discuss military cooperation between the two countries.
General Bingde's position is equivalent to the head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, and this is the first time a Chinese officer of that rank has ever visited Israel.He was received with full honors upon his arrival and came at the invitation of IDF Chief of Staff Benny Ganz. His visit will include conferences with Ganz, Israeli defense Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel military figures as well as a visit of the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem and a visit to a military base in the Negev.
This is not the first high level meeting between Israeli and Chinese military figures. In 2010, an Israeli military delegation visited China for an extended visit and in May, 2011 Barak and Israeli Navy Commander Admiral Eliezer Merom met with Admiral Wu Shengli, the head of the Chinese Navy.
In his public remarks, General Bingde said that the development of Sino-Israeli cooperation in the defense sector will contribute to strengthening peace and stability in the Middle East. Barak, in response said that China and Israel must work together to counter the different threats and challenges facing the two countries.
I predicted about two and a half years ago when the Obama Administration's assault on America and Israel's alliance was getting underway that Israel might very well increase its ties with China. The two countries already have significant trade agreements, and in many ways are a natural fit.
While China currently backs countries like Iran and the Sudan in the UN, this is basically a matter of protecting oil and gas sources for its expanding economy. In fact China's press coverage of Israel is fairly balanced and the overall image of Israel in China is relatively good.Unlike Russia and the EU, there has never been any history of anti-Semitism in China and the two cultures share a number of attributes.
The Chinese have a huge need for what Israel has to sell, electronic, medical, agricultural and industrial technology and expertise as well as military hardware. And as trade with certain countries in the EU becomes more problematical because of active attempts to boycott Israeli products and restive Muslim populations, countries like China and India with large populations and expanding economies represent major new markets for Israel. And the Chinese are also not unaware of the huge discoveries of oil and natural gas in Israel that are scheduled to begin producing in a year or so.
Aside from markets, the Israelis stand to gain a relationship with a rising power as leverage against an increasingly the untrustworthy and anti-Israel Obama administration in Washington. Based on what's occurred since President Obama took office, you can hardly blame them.
During the Cold War, Israel threw the Soviets out of the Middle East without a single US soldier having to be based there. This time, they're hedging their bets.