Israel’s representative in Taiwan, Maya Yaron, recently called communist China’s response to Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel “disturbing” while praising Taiwan for its unequivocal support of her country.
When the government of Taiwan learned about the atrocities committed by Hamas, Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately posted a statement: “Taiwan strongly condemns the indiscriminate attacks against the Israelis carried out by Hamas. We stand in solidarity with Israel and denounce all forms of terrorism.” The ministry also posted an image on X, formerly Twitter, showing the top of Taipei’s tallest building lit with blue and white light, representing Israel’s flag. Taiwan, a thriving democracy facing a hostile neighbor, certainly understands the existential threats Israel faces.
China Fails to Call Hamas Attack ‘Terrorism’
In contrast, communist China initially issued a bland call for restraint from both sides and a “two-state” solution. After facing much criticism, the spokeswoman of China’s Foreign Ministry said China was “deeply saddened by the civilian casualties” and condemned “any acts that harm civilians.” Still, Beijing has refrained from either condemning Hamas or using the word “terrorism” to describe the atrocity they committed on Oct. 7. Nor did Beijing issue any outright support for Israel’s right to defend itself. China responded weakly even though the terrorist group killed at least four Chinese citizens and abducted three.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi claimed, “The crux of the matter is that justice has not been done to the Palestinian people.” Leftists in the West have uttered similar rhetoric in recent days to justify Hamas’ barbaric actions. Last week, China also joined Russia in vetoing a U.S.-led draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council. The resolution would have condemned Hamas and urged the release of Israeli hostages.
According to The Wall Street Journal, China’s state media chose not to report or show images of what Israel has suffered. Instead, they only broadcast images of what happened in Gaza after Israel’s bombing. A dispatch by Xinhua News Agency described the Oct. 7 attack: “The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] on Saturday launched a surprise attack on southern Israeli towns adjacent to the Gaza Strip, prompting Israel to launch retaliatory strikes on Gaza.” The agency didn’t mention the murders, rapes, or abductions of Israelis that Hamas committed.
China Lets Antisemitism Roar on TikTok
Besides Beijing’s disturbing official responses, Israel has other reasons to be discontent with China. Hamas called for a “Day of Rage” on Oct. 13 to “attack Israel and Jews” worldwide. An Israeli embassy employee was stabbed in Beijing, the capital of China and a city heavily guarded by police and monitored by facial recognition cameras. While many Chinese people voiced sympathy for Israelis, antisemitic remarks are reportedly on the rise in China’s censored social media too.
In the U.S., anti-Israel propaganda flooded the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, which has 100 million U.S. users and a large youth demographic. TikTok has become American youths’ go-to news source. Some suspect the app’s algorithm and its dominant anti-Israel views tend to reinforce such views. TikTok seems partially responsible for a recent poll that shows the majority of Americans between 18 and 24 believe Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel is “justified.”
It is particularly infuriating that Arab nations and leftists in the West loudly condemn Israelis as colonizers and settlers and Israel’s self-defense as “ethnic cleansing” of Gazans while remaining silent about the Chinese Communist Party’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.
China and Israel’s Relationship
Israel’s disappointment in Beijing is understandable because, before Hamas attacked Israel, China and Israel had enjoyed a relatively good relationship. China has always supported the Palestinian cause “due to its alignment with Maoism and liberation movements in the 1960s and 1970s.” Yet China actively sought to deepen economic and technological ties with Israel since the ’90s as China began to embark on its economic reform.
The two countries established a formal diplomatic relationship in 1992. China turned to Israel for a practical reason. Since Israel is a global technology hub, Beijing hopes to acquire advanced technologies in Israel. These will help China modernize its military and realize its ambition of becoming a technological powerhouse.
As of 2022, China was Israel’s second-largest trading partner, with the total trade value reaching $24.45 billion. Both the Trump and Biden administrations restricted sensitive technological exports to China. As a result, China’s direct investment in Israel’s IT industry, especially in chips and semiconductors, has increased. In 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said China accounts for one-third of the investment in Israeli high technology.
Israel participated in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing’s signature geopolitical expansion scheme dressed up as an infrastructure investment project. Chinese companies reportedly play an active role in Israel’s infrastructure and transportation projects. These include Chinese “contracts to construct new ports in the southern Israeli cities of Ashdod and Haifa as well as a crucial portion of the Tel Aviv light rail system.”
In the ’90s, Israel sold some military equipment and technologies to China, including the Harpy missile system. Under pressure from the U.S., Israel doesn’t share military technologies with China anymore. Still, Israel doesn’t restrict China from acquiring dual-usage technologies that could have military implications.
U.S. Warns Israel About China
A succession of U.S. administrations warned Israel about its growing tie with China. They shared their concern about China using Israel as a backdoor to access sensitive technologies from the U.S. The most vocal objection to the Sino-Israeli tie came from the Trump administration.
When former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Israel in 2019, he warned Israelis that China’s “Belt and Road” was a “debt trap.” He stated that the CCP “engages in spying through its commercial state-owned enterprises and presents risk through its technology systems, companies like Huawei.” According to Pompeo, China’s actions posed a risk not only to Israel but also to U.S. and Israeli military cooperation. “If certain systems go in certain places, then America’s efforts to work alongside you will be more difficult,” Pompeo said. “Intelligence sharing might have to be reduced, co-location of security facilities might have to be reduced.”
Unfortunately, Israel largely brushed aside the warning. Like many other countries, China’s massive market has enticed Israel. Plus, the Israeli government hopes China’s good relationships with Arab nations may help Israel.
China’s Transactional Tie to Israel
This year, Netanyahu was working on a Sino-Israeli free trade agreement and planned to visit China. But China’s response to Hamas’ attack should wake up Israel’s leaders to reality. Communist China’s relationship with Israel is purely transactional. China works with Israel to obtain crucial technologies and to bypass America’s technology export restrictions.
Basketball great Magic Johnson once said, “When you face a crisis, you know who your true friends are.” Israel faces a crisis right now. Communist China, as an authoritarian regime, despises liberal democratic values. Its responses show it will never support Israel, a democracy and an ally of the United States. China is not Israel’s friend.