Stop and smell the blossoming ties between Israel and China

 The Israel China Cultural Festival taking place around the Bay Area this month has provided a marvelous opportunity to celebrate the growing ties between the two countries.

It’s a sign not only of positive bilateral relations but also of close bonds between the Chinese and Jewish people.

Unlike much of the rest of the world, there is no history of anti-Semitism in China. Jews have had business connections there for centuries, and Shanghai’s embrace of European Jews fleeing Hitler is a kindness never to be forgotten.

In addition, there is abundant evidence that the Chinese have a favorable view of Jews, admiring them for their intellectual achievements and ability to survive. They also see Jews as sharing Chinese values such as family and education.

Twenty years after China established diplo-matic ties with Israel, this has all translated into warming relations between the two. According to figures cited in the March issue of Foreign Policy magazine, bilateral trade amounts to nearly $10 billion, with China being Israel’s third largest export market.

More than 1,000 Israeli companies have opened for business in China, and there is talk of a bilateral free trade agreement sometime in the future.

On the other side, Chinese delegations regularly turn up in Israel, clinching deals with Israeli high-tech companies. To cite just one recent example, in February the countries’ finance ministers signed a $300 million deal to export Israeli water technology to China.

Beyond business, last year China took part in the China-Israel Strategy and Security Symposium in Herzliya, signaling closer cooperation on security issues.

This matters because, as the world’s second largest economy, China exerts enormous influence on world affairs. That China is not in the pocket of Iran, Syria or the Arab bloc (though it does business with them) signals that China has chosen to be even-handed when it comes to the Middle East. Growing closer to Israel can only help.

Which brings us back to the Israel China Cultural Festival. With Silicon Valley and some 40,000 Israelis living in our region, and with China’s strong Pacific Coast presence, the Bay Area is a nexus for relations between China and Israel, between the Chinese and Jewish people.

What with spiking Hamas rocket fire and Iran’s nuclear intransigence, it’s easy to get caught up in the bad news when it comes to Israel. Here’s something to feel good about.

Thank you, China, and the Chinese people, for what we hope will be an enduring friendship.