The management given to a Chinese business prompts US threat not to sell technology to Israel.
The Trump administration's protests over the awarding of management of the port of Haifa to a Chinese business have so far not prompted the Netanyahu government to review the contract, which was dealt with at ministerial level without plenary session of the Executive Council knowledge of its geopolitical implications. China's penetration of Israel - in the wider Middle East context - as well as the US reaction, highlights a complicated triangle of relations: Israel wants Chinese investment, but fears losing US favour.
▲ management of containers in the port of Haifa in northern Israel [Wikipedia].
article / María Martín Andrade
The port of Haifa is one of the main ports in Israel in terms of volume of goods handled. It also has a strategic character: the port, in the north of the country, hosts the US Sixth Fleet in its movements. The latter could be altered following the announcement of Israel's contract with the Chinese business Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) to operate the port for the next 25 years from 2021, which has not been very well received by Washington. management The company, which has pledged to invest $2 billion to expand the facility into Israel's largest port, describes its functions as including the construction and installation of equipment and the day-to-day running of port activities, classifying this project as part of the One Belt, One Road initiative.
This initiative has its origins in the Silk Road, a trade pathway linking China with various Asian countries all the way to Europe, dating back to the first centuries BC. The new version is based on the early schemes and aims to boost China by creating a network of infrastructure, investment and trade, and by establishing multilateral and bilateral ties with the various states along the Silk Road, as well as with international companies.
All of the above, added to the growing industrial and transport expansion that China is experiencing, also justifies the Asian country's interest in some of the natural resources that the Middle East offers, such as oil, the import of which amounts to 50%, constituting another of the reasons why China wants to gain a presence in different parts of the region and which is manifested in, among other ways, investment in canals and ports such as those of Haifa and Ashdad in Israel, Cherchell in Algeria, Said and Alexandria in Egypt, and Kumport in Turkey. Specifically, its commitment to the port of Haifa is also contributing to the development of what is known as the Israel-Gulf Economic Corridor (IGEC), whose goal is to create a railway line running from the port of Haifa to the Jordanian-Israeli border, linking up with the Jordanian railway system.
However, China's ambitions to gain a greater presence in the Middle East collide with the pretensions of another "robust rival", the United States, which is also driven by economic and security interests and has no intention of sharing it. Thus, after learning of the plans in the port of Haifa, the US response is manifested in threats that it might stop sharing data intelligence with Israel and reconsider holding future long deadline exercises by the US navy in that port.
It is important to note that this is not the first time that the US has intervened to hinder relations between China and Israel. The conditions under which the latter country was established, coupled with the hostile environment surrounding it and the need to possess weapons to maintain and protect it, have contributed to the development of its technology, especially in subject defence, whose broad scope is due in part to the United States, which has been supplying the country with the latest military technology since the 1960s. This has contributed to Israel's exports of subject technology, mainly defence subject technology, becoming the source main source of revenue for its industry.
During the 1970s, China's Economics began to modernise, and the next step was to extend this modernisation to the military domain, and China began importing defence developments from Israel. These relations continued to expand until 2000, when the Middle Eastern country, due to US pressure, decided to cancel the agreement that allowed China to obtain four Phalcon radar systems. The reason given by the US at the time for opposing the agreement was the possibility that China would benefit from the technology in a military conflict in Taiwan. However, China is not the only country with which Israel has had difficulties exporting its technology. In 2008 Washington denied that it could submit Heron drones to Russia.
Despite all this, Sino-Israeli relations have managed to survive, with China becoming Israel's second largest trading partner in 2012, partner and developing new partnership R&D ties, consisting of a series of agreements and collaborations between academic institutions and companies in both countries.
However, considering the US reaction to China's involvement in the port of Haifa, it is not unthinkable to envisage a scenario in which American pressure would be repeated and in this case would succeed in abolishing the existing agreement with the business Shanghai International Port. If this happens, Israel would lose an important part of the investments it receives and trade relations with China would cool, while Beijing could see one of its plans to create its ambitious Silk Road frustrated, although this would not mean its decline in the Middle East.
What is unquestionable is that the United States no longer enjoys hegemony in this part of the world and has to come to terms with the idea that it will have to share influence with other great powers. It may therefore make more sense to engage in new forms of cooperation with China in order to establish mutually favourable terms.
In conclusion, this new Chinese investment affirms what was already known: China's international presence is growing and increasing in volume, and it is wiser to adapt to the new changes than to get involved in love triangles that never have a happy ending for anyone.