The School of Media Studies

The College of Management – Academic Studies, Rishon LeZion, Israel

By Alex Pevzner

GOAL: To improve Israel – China ties by engaging in a systematic dialogue with the Chinese media.

THE ISSUE:  China is playing an increasingly central role in global affairs. As a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and the world’s second largest economy, China has a voice in virtually every important international issue and it is increasingly engaged in the Middle East.

Israel considers its ties with China to be of crucial importance. Both Israel and China are ancient civilizations and have highly complementary economies, so the potential for cooperation is high. Israel can work together with China on a range of issues such as agriculture, water treatment, food and health.

Israel needs to engage the Chinese media, as it serves as a window on China. It is the world’s largest media system in terms of sheer numbers and language reach. Building bridges to the Chinese media and society is the best way for Israel to bring its story to Chinese audiences.

MISSION: Under the auspices of the School of Media Studies of The College of Management Academic Studies (COMAS), Rishon LeZion, Israel, the Chinese Media Center (CMC) will maintain a dialogue with the Chinese media, conduct cutting-edge research of the media systems in the Greater China area and be an educational tool for COMAS students. CMC will be in a regular contact with the Chinese working print, digital, and broadcast media, thus facilitating greater understanding of Israel in China and vice versa.

Currently no Israeli academic institution or non-profit organization engages or studies the media in the Greater China area in any way. The Chinese Media Center, the first of its kind in Israel and one of the few globally, will leverage the state-of-the-art facilities and communications research of the school and will connect Israel and China in a systematic dialogue and scholarly and professional exchanges. The Center at the School of Media Studies will serve Israel’s long-term interest by pursuing independent scholarship and building bridges between the two nations.


Alexander B

Alex Pevzner is an expert in the area of Chinese media and regularly publishes on Israel-China ties in the leading Chinese news media publications. Pevzner was the founding director of the China program of The Israel Project, the first ever program of its kind aimed at increasing understanding of Israel in China. Prior to that, Pevzner worked for over five years as a staff reporter of Dow Jones Newswires in Taiwan. Pevzner holds an M.A. in Asian Studies and a B.A. in East Asian Studies and International Relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has also studied modern Chinese in Tsinghua University in Beijing and classical Chinese in National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Hebrew, and English.


Growth in number of Chinese Internet users; 618 million at the end of 2013

618 million Internet users in Chinese end-2013

618 million Internet users in Chinese end-2013

 A quarter of the world’s newspapers are in Chinese; 132 million copies printed everyday.


A quarter of the world's newspapers are Chinese

A quarter of the world’s newspapers are Chinese




US loses by blocking Sino-Israeli ties

US loses by blocking Sino-Israeli ties

Global Times 2012-10-25

By Alex Pevzner

Israel and China are celebrating the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Israel is increasingly looking east and has recently taken a series of steps to boost its ties with China.
Israel-China 20th diplomatic relations anniversary commemorative stamp ceremony

But what should Israel do about the concerns of its closest ally, the US? For the past six decades, the Americans have moved to prevent Israel from moving too close to China.

Israel is generally considered to be firmly in the US camp when it comes to international relations. With the frequency and the intensity of US-Israel dialogue, sometimes it’s easy to forget that Israel wasn’t always tied to the West and the US. The founding fathers of modern Israel sought partners wherever they could and weren’t ideologically fixated on a certain direction.

For example, faced with Arab hostility in the early days of the state, Israel’s first prime minister David Ben-Gurion and foreign minister Moshe Sharett actively explored the non-Arab axis in the Middle East, Iran, Turkey, and the Kurds.

Nor was Israel’s attention limited to the Middle East or the West. Shortly after the end of Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, Israel recognized the PRC on January 9, 1950, the first country in the Middle East and the seventh non-communist country to recognize new China.

Unlike many Western countries, Israel never recognized the Kuomintang government in Taipei.

But while Israel recognized the PRC 28 years before the US did, China and Israel established relations only in 1992. The main reason for the delay was US interference, as the US position was influenced by the emerging Cold War, the “loss of China” theory, and the eruption of the Korean War (1950-53).

Many Chinese remember that Israel was forced in 2000 to cancel a deal to supply China with the Phalcon surveillance system because of US pressure, but not many know that the US had already blocked closer Sino-Israeli ties in the early 1950s.

The US pressure delayed the early development of Israel-China ties, at the same time as China began to realize the potential of the Arab and Muslim world.

Today, Israel wants to advance its ties with China, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called on his ministers to visit China in order to strengthen economic ties between the two countries.

The Israeli interest is clear. Israel wants to win new partners and markets, and gain China’s ear on the Iranian nuclear threat.

In addition to its technology and innovation, Israel is bringing to the table large new gas finds that can help China diversify its energy suppliers. The gas finds have already piqued Russia’s interest so much that Russian President Vladimir Putin visited both China and Israel shortly after his inauguration.

China wants stability in the Middle East, secure energy supplies, and to further its global position at a time of tension with its neighbors, particularly in the South China Sea.

China also enjoys good ties with the Arab and Muslim world, and Chinese interests in the Middle East at least partly coincide with US interests if both sides can agree on ensuring fair and stable access to energy sources.

China has repeatedly expressed its opposition to Iran developing nuclear weapons and has warned Iran against closing the Strait of Hormuz. Interestingly enough, perhaps China’s two most stable diplomatic partners in the Middle East are Iran and Israel.

Therefore, the time is ripe for China and Israel to advance their relationship even further, even in the face of possible US opposition.

Although the US remains vigilant on military relations development between Israel and China, both sides have been conducting fruitful cooperation.

For example, Israel helped the Chinese army to train anti-terrorist armed police, and in August Chinese naval vessels concluded the first-ever visit to the Israeli navy port. This cooperation did not harm the fundamental interests of the US, and US-Israel relations remain firm as before.

Israel’s good relations with the US can actually be an asset for China. China can use the US-Israel-China triangle to improve its own relations with the US, as China-US ties will remain the most important bilateral relationship in the world in the foreseeable future.

Israel is facing hard choices but willing to take the chance. Is China ready?


The author is former director of the China program at The Israel Project.


China nudges Iran on nuke talks

China nudges Iran on nuke talks


06/17/2012 21:45

The Chinese are losing patience with Iran’s refusal to assuage Western concerns regarding the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

source - U.S. Treasury

Those following the Chinese media during the recent visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have noticed a slight change in China’s tone toward Iran, indicating that the Chinese, while still interested in cooperating with Iran on a range of issues, are starting to lose patience with Iran’s refusal to assuage Western concerns regarding the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Ahmadinejad visited Beijing on June 6-7 at the invitation of his counterpart, Chinese President Hu Jintao, to attend the annual economic summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a body that is China’s attempt to balance US and western influence in Asia. China is Iran’s main trading partner, a key investor in Iranian economy, and continues to be a major buyer of Iranian oil, recent import cuts notwithstanding. China has also been instrumental in watering down the UN sanctions leveled against Iran.

While Iran only has observer status at the SCO, China was conscious of the global attention on Ahmadinejad’s visit, especially in view of the stumbling talks around Iran’s nuclear program. After two recent rounds of talks between Tehran and world powers and ahead of another round in Moscow, the sides are nowhere close to reaching an agreement. Even though Iran’s willingness to enter the talks stems from the biting economic sanctions, Iran seems to bet the differences between the world powers, the prospect of rising oil prices, and the support for Iran from China and Russia would cause the West to bend eventually.

Still, China understands (though it may not say so explicitly) that the Iranian nuclear program includes a military component and is aimed at extending its regional influence. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reiterated to the visiting Iranian president China’s opposition to any Middle Eastern country seeking to acquire nuclear weapons, and it was clear Wen meant Iran. Even more significant was Hu Jintao’s message to Ahmadinejad during the official meeting.

While reiterating China’s long-standing position that differences over Iran’s nuclear program should be solved by peaceful means and negotiations, Hu urged Iran to show “flexibility and pragmatism” during the talks. Also significant was Hu using the expression shenshi duoshi, which means “judge the hour and size up the situation,” indicating China is pressing Iran to yield and believes Iran must seize upon the chance given it during the talks. Hu further stated that Iran should “have serious talks with all six related nations, and enhance dialogues and cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

There were further signs that China is aware of Western concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. While Ahmadinejad’s visit resembled a state visit (including a red carpet, honor guard review) and he met with the top three Chinese leaders, China’s foreign ministry didn’t define it as a state visit. This was his third visit to China, and all three were a part of some international activity and not an official state visit.

Media coverage was also relatively low key – for example, People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, didn’t run its own article on the visit and simply used the Xinhua News Agency copy. Another example is the fact that Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi remained in Beijing for talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, which was not covered at all by the Chinese media.

The protocol-conscious Chinese didn’t offer Ahmadinejad the opportunity to hold a press conference while in Beijing, and while he talked to students at Peking University, he read from a prepared statement, was not allowed to take questions, and didn’t mention his country’s nuclear program. As Yin Gang, a prominent Chinese Middle East expert put it, for someone as “outspoken” as Ahmadinejad, his speech at Peking University was the “most restrained ever, and he is someone who doesn’t need to use a prepared statement.”

In a nod to Western concerns, the Chinese hosts didn’t discuss (at least openly) energy cooperation with Iran during the visit. Still, China isn’t willing to give up its cooperation with Iran completely. Hu told Ahmadinejad that China and Iran should “maintain contacts and coordination on major international and regional issues so as to preserve regional peace and stability, and enable common development.” This goes slightly further than Hu’s suggestion in 2008 that “both sides should also strengthen international cooperation and work together to maintain regional and global peace and stability,” and shows China’s recognition of Iran’s importance to issues like the uprising in Syria.

The relatively toned-down visit and the acknowledgement of Western sensitivities when it comes to Ahmadinejad, combined with China’s desire to continue working with Iran, exemplifies China’s position that it doesn’t want to be dragged into the “zero-sum game” between Iran and the US. Still, China understands that any conflagration in the Middle East as a result of the Iranian push for nuclear weapons is bound to hurt China’s interests as well. The carefully chosen language used by Chinese President Hu in his meeting with Ahmadinejad attests to that.

The author is Director for China Affairs at The 
Israel Project, an international organization that provides fact-based information about Israel to the press, policymakers and public.


Israel and China – toward the next 20 years

Israel and China – toward the next 20 years


LAST UPDATED: 01/23/2012 22:12

The benefits for Israel from closer relations with China are seemingly obvious.

Israel-China ties (Reuters)

Israel and China will on Tuesday mark the 20th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. There’s a lot to celebrate, not least the robust trade ties and frequent academic and civilian exchanges. Yet the two countries have barely scratched the surface in terms of the potential for bilateral ties. The direction for Israel in the 21st century is clear – eastward, as the two countries are a natural fit.

The benefits for Israel from closer relations with China are seemingly obvious. With a population of less than 8 million, Israel has no domestic market to speak of. China, on the other hand, not only is the home to the world’s largest population but also a huge and growing middle class. Analysts expect continuing urbanization to keep adding potential consumers for anything from mobile phones to notebook computers (and Israel designs telecom billing systems and chips for those) and to increase the pressure on already limited land, water, and energy resources.

Israel also has a lot to offer China. Sustainable development is one area where China can benefit from stronger ties with Israel. Israel used to be mostly desert, and until recently lacked any oil or gas resources.

So Israelis had to rely on the only thing they had – their brains and innovation – to build the country. Thus came desalination, drip irrigation and water recycling to solve the shortage of water, solar and thermal energy for electricity. Two-thirds arid Israel recycles about 75 percent of its water and according government plans by 2014 will supply most of its water needs using desalination and even export water. Moreover, if Better Place gets its way to wean the world off of oil, the global car fleet may yet switch to electricity.

Israeli innovation positions it as the natural partner for China. Less than 10% of China’s land is arable and China is suffering from ever more severe droughts. China has done wonders in three decades of reforms that have lifted millions out of poverty and transformed the country into a manufacturing powerhouse and the world’s second-largest economy. Yet the same reforms have put immense pressure on natural resources. Rapid industrialization led to severe air pollution and millions of people have no access to clean water.

Israel, the “start-up nation,” and China, the world’s factory, can work together to build desalination plants, help ensure water supply for farmers, harness the power of the sun and clean the air, among other areas of cooperation.

Still, there’s much more to Israel-China relations than just trade. Israel remembers how in the darkest hour for Jews, when the world closed its doors on Jewish plight, China became the haven for thousands of Jews escaping Europe. Shanghai alone welcomed nearly 20,000 Jews from Europe thanks in part to Chinese diplomat He Fengshan extending visas to Jews. In fact, China is one of the few places in the world where Jews were never persecuted and several Jewish communities existed in China since at least the 12th century.

On all levels Israel is seeking greater interaction with China. The Israeli government plans to allocate at least NIS 110 million to raise the number of scholarships it provides to Chinese students for all degrees from several dozens to 250 starting this year. These students will not only enjoy first-class education at reasonable prices but will also become another bridge between the two countries.

The growing numbers of Jewish and Israeli nonprofits that are engaging China also attest to the importance Israel attaches to China. For example, The Israel Project, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that provides information about Israel to the media and policymakers, launched a China program in 2011. We have a website about Israel in Chinese and we’re regularly communicating in Chinese with journalists using newsletters, media tours and social media.

Bilateral merchandise trade has reached a record high of $7.5 billion in the January- November period of 2011, surpassing the $6.8b. recorded for the full year of 2010. Looking toward the next 20 years, let us hope that cooperation will continue expanding across a range of fields including science and technology, trade and tourism, and that the two countries can take the relationship to another level. Jews and Chinese – it’s a winning match.

The writer is director for China affairs at The Israel Project, an international organization that gets facts about Israel and the Middle East to the press, policy-makers and public.