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Haaretz Publishes Ambassador Zhan Yongxin's Article "Israel has nothing to fear from China"
2019/08/13

On 13 August, 2019, Haaretz, Israel's leading newspaper, published Ambassador Zhan Yongxin's article entitled "Israel has nothing to fear from China" in English and Hebrew. The English full text is as follows:

The title of my op-ed comes from a Chinese fable. It says that a traveller walking under the moon thought his own shadow was a ghost tailing him, and tried his best to run away from this imaginary ghost. However hard he tried, the shadow remains closely behind, and he was scared to death. The story tells us that we must not be fooled by unfounded suspicions which can cost us dearly.

Unfortunately, the fable keeps repeating itself. Nowadays, there are certain groups of people so obsessed with bashing China that they are pulling all strings to frame cases against the win-win cooperation between China and other countries.

Some people claimed that China's investment and infrastructure projects in Israel intend to steal Israel's intelligence, control its strategic resources and threaten its security. However, they have failed to provide any concrete evidence.

What these people are doing reminds me of several well-recorded incidents in history. In 2003, some people forcefully stated that Iraq had WMDs and then launched an unjust war. In 2013, PRISM shocked the world. Someone who accuses others of intelligence gathering has been operating a systematic hacking and tapping campaign for years, and their targets even include leaders of allies.

In China, we have another saying related to ghosts, that anyone who never did anything wrong need not fear being visited by a ghost at night, meaning that we do not fear any attacks on our integrity as long as we have a clear conscience.

However, with the increase of groundless accusations against China and the misleading effects on the public, I find it a must to make the following clarifications:

First, China highly values its friendship and cooperation with Israel. Over the recent years, China-Israel Innovative Comprehensive Partnership has made remarkable progress and yielded fruitful results in areas like trade, infrastructure, innovation, culture and people-to-people exchanges.

But given Israel's territorial size, market volume, regional situation, as well as the external pressure on China-Israel cooperation and the few well-known setbacks in our relations, Israel has yet to be a focus of Chinese companies.

In 2018, China-Israel bilateral trade only accounts for 0.3% of China's total foreign trade, and China's investment in Israel only represents 0.4% of China's global investment. The numbers fully demonstrate the huge potential in our cooperation.

Second, China-Israel cooperation is win-win in nature. Chinese companies and investment have brought tangible benefits to Israel. Take Ashdod new port for example. The Chinese company purchases goods and services from over 200 Israeli partners and creates thousands of jobs for the locals.

In the Tel Aviv Red Line project, the Chinese company signed supply contracts with more than 300 Israeli counterparts and trained the first group of Israeli workers that can operate the Tunnel Boring Machine.

Third, unlike what has been claimed by some people, there are no ulterior motives in Chinese investment and cooperation with Israel.

Take Haifa new port for example. The SIPG, the Chinese company that won the 25-year concession of the new port, has maintained as the world's largest port company for 9 consecutive years. In 2018 alone, the SIPG processed over 42 million TEUs. Let me put this number into perspective. If the Haifa new port were to be completed on time and reach the peak capacity without a glitch, it can process only 1.9 million TEUs per year. If it was not Israel's targeted promotion and invitation, the SIPG would not have any interests in joining the bidding.

Someone goes even further and accuses China of using Haifa new port to surveil foreign naval fleet. I trust everyone with a basic level of military knowledge can see how ridiculous the accusation is. Does China really need to apply this out-of-date method to collect intelligence?

Fourth, the Chinese companies investing or doing business in Israel are all independent market entities, and they should not suffer unwarranted attacks.

The Chinese companies in Israel are either publicly listed or affiliated to a listed corporation. They may have investment from the government, but they also receive huge amount of funding from across the society, including these from Europe and America. Moreover, like all the listed companies in the world, the Chinese ones must take care of shareholders' interests, disclose information and bear full responsibility for their profits and losses. In short, they are transparent to the public and receive supervision from the market.

In Israel, every contract awarded to the Chinese companies is done through fair and transparent international bidding process. They are purely market activities. The allegation of Chinese government controlling Israeli infrastructure or transmitting sensitive data is nothing but a myth.

Rumors stop at a wise man. Israel is an independent sovereign state, and China respects Israel's legitimate security concerns. China is not interested in sowing discord or doing any harm to the special relations between Israel and other countries.

At the same time, the win-win cooperation between China and Israel should also be respected. I believe China-Israel friendship is strong enough to withstand the external pressure, and the Jewish people is wise enough to choose the course of action that serves their best interests.

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