China’s former Ambassador to Israel, Zhao Jun, loves the State of Israel. He claimed that upon arrival in Israel he discovered a wonderful country. Former Ambassador Zhao Jun proclaimed in Yedioth Achronot, “What captured my heart was the residents’ friendly attitude. The friendship between Israel and the Chinese people has been going on for over 1,000 years.” He continued, “We in China admire you and your Jewish mind, which has brought many Nobel prizes… we admire you for creating miracles.”
The present Chinese Ambassador to Israel, Ghao Yaping, also greatly admires Israel for both China and Israel possess shared values. She declared while visiting the Technion, “Both China and Israel are Asian nations with long histories. Both countries attach great importance to education. So I believe to have good friends as well as a partner is important not only for China but also for Israel. By joining hands we can have more contributions to world peace and stability as well as tangible benefits for our two peoples as well as more trade, more investments, and more job opportunities.” She claimed that she is looking forward towards working for better relations between Israel and China.
Anti-semitism is considered alien to Chinese culture. Yizhak Shichor of Haifa University’s Department of Asian Studies asserted, “Whatever anti-semitism there is in Asia, it is superficial and rootless. […] Actually, in WWII Asia became a haven, perhaps the only one, for tens of thousands of Jewish refugees who fled Europe and were allowed to settle in Shanghai and Central Asia.” Similarly, Shalom Wald, a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, claimed in his report titled China and the Jewish People: Old Civilizations in a New Era, “In all languages of the Christian and Muslim world, the word Jew carries heavy emotional and polemical baggage anchored in the founding texts of the two religions—the New Testament and the Quran. The Chinese do not carry this baggage.”
To the contrary, the Chinese often sympathize with Jewish suffering throughout history, particularly in respect to Jewish suffering during the Holocaust. Films such as Schindler’s List are widely viewed within China. Wald claims that the Chinese frequently see parallels between Jewish and Chinese history. They apparently view how the west and Russia treated China during the nineteenth century as similar to how Jews were discriminated against in European countries prior to the Holocaust.
Additionally, aside from not traditionally possessing anti-semitism within their culture, the Chinese greatly admire what Jews and Israel have to offer. Wald asserted that the Chinese commonly value Israel’s and the Jewish people’s contributions to world civilization. He declared, “The Jews are seen as contributors to religious, philosophical, and political ideas, and to economic and scientific progress that changed the world. Einstein is most often mentioned.” However, the Chinese evidently also greatly value Jews such as Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx.
Yet Jewish contributions to world civilization are not the only aspect that the Chinese admire in regards to Israel; they also greatly value Israel as a fellow ancient civilization, which according to American China scholar Joseph Levenson is of “paramount importance” due to the tendency to favor “historical thinking in Chinese culture.” Wald claims that “this can result in a feeling of affinity that few other nations share.” Indeed, both Jewish and Chinese civilizations are among the oldest on the planet and both nations put great emphasis on remembering their rich and vibrant histories.
These traditional Chinese sentiments related to the Jewish people have helped Chinese-Israeli relations to improve in recent years. The Chinese are greatly interested in Israeli technologies, such as drip irrigation, high tech, and medical optics. Additionally, many Chinese students are coming to study in Israeli universities and an increasing number of Israel Studies programs have opened up in China. According to Aron Shai, author of Sino-Israeli Relations: Current Reality and Future Prospects, there are an increasing number of Israeli books that have been translated into Chinese as well. Shichor claims that in 2002, Israel became China’s sixth most important labor export market. In 2010, China became the second largest economy in the world and some analysts’ project that China’s economy will overtake the US’s by 2017. Given all of this, the future of Chinese-Israeli relations possesses great potential.
To view a video of the Chinese Ambassador speaking at the Technion, see below!
By Rachel Avraham