Although an industrial giant that is almost the largest in the world, Beijing’s ambitions to transform into a “higher entity” have always been stymied by something fundamental, technology, starting with the technologies it is forced to adopt from the West to the advanced research that puts it back in the ranks of developed countries.
In the first story in Newsweek’s “Secret China” series, the magazine explores ways China can expand its influence “to achieve global supremacy by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Revolution.”
The magazine says that China has tried to attract technicians from Israel, who specialize in various fields, especially technology, by offering relatively large sums of money in exchange for working in China.
These efforts are thanks to the Zhejiang center, which houses a unit of China’s National Science and Technology Development Plan “863,” which is likely to see it try to get hold of military applications, according to the magazine.
The magazine quoted an Israeli analyst, who did not agree to be identified, as saying that someone contacted him via the Wejat app, which is popular in China, and told him that the center offers jobs in China. offers with attractive salaries, and it offers help. and information about work in the country.
The magazine says the Chinese state operates hundreds of recruitment networks targeting intellectual property around the world, while Israel has a thriving sector in emerging technologies such as laser optics and augmented and virtual reality.
It is one of the world’s major innovation hubs, with about 4,000 active startups, and spends 5 percent of its annual gross domestic product on research and development — the highest amount in the world, according to the Washington, DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
She says Israel is uniquely attractive in its mix of highly advanced defense and security technology and research.
During the last 20 years, 97 percent of the known investments in Israel were from China in the technology sector.
Concerns about Israel’s relations with China
Israel and the United States share deep defense ties in areas such as drone technology and artificial intelligence, so China’s focus on acquiring emerging digital technologies raises concerns about the backdoors of American technology and unwanted technology outflows.
The magazine says that Washington’s nightmare is that by partnering with or buying an Israeli company, China could obtain key technology that would give it an edge in the military or other sensitive areas.
“We have been upfront with our Israeli friends about the risks to our common national security interests,” the State Department told Newsweek. “In diplomatic talk, frank means that people are yelling at each other,” the State Department told Newsweek.
The US State Department said that “China has announced that it is seeking foreign technologies to control critical and emerging technologies in the future and supports a policy of military-civilian integration to use civilian technology to give the People’s Republic of China a military advantage .”
The magazine pointed out that the Israelis are aware of Washington’s position on Beijing, but they are determined to maintain trade exchanges.
“With the United States we have a full strategic relationship, but it is not our no. 1 trading partner,” said Assaf Orion, director of the China program at the Israel Institute for National Security Studies and former dean.
Sino-Israeli relations deepened during the tenure of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in 2017 he signed an agreement titled “Comprehensive Innovation Partnership” with China.
The paper says the infrastructure is the most visible evidence of the budding relationship.
State-owned Chinese companies have built much-needed facilities in the Israeli ports of Ashdod and Haifa, and are building a hydroelectric project at Kochav Hayarden in the north of the country, and a light rail line in Tel Aviv for the traffic-clogged Mediterranean. City.
Of particular concern to US officials is the port in Haifa, which is set to open in late 2021. The Shanghai Port International Group, owned by the Shanghai government, has 25-year operating rights, which can give Chinese officials access to sensitive administrative and electronic networks.
The Communist Party has branches in all state-owned companies, according to the magazine.
Military technology is a particular concern
Of the 507 Chinese deals with Israel between 2002 and May 2022, 492 were in technology, including ICT, clean technology, agriculture and robotics.
While the total number of deals has decreased in recent years as Israelis have become more sensitive to US concerns, the technology share of the rest of the deals is still very high, reaching 43 out of 44 investments in 2021 to May 2022.
Perhaps surprisingly, the magazine says, a deal-screening mechanism set up in 2020 in the office of Israel’s chief economist at the Ministry of Finance – under US pressure – does not cover the technology.
China’s access to Israeli military expertise is of particular concern to the United States, according to the magazine.
In the 1990s, China purchased Israeli-developed Harpy drones (UAVs) and ordered upgrades in 2003. But under enormous American pressure, Israel canceled the upgrade deal.
In an informal conversation, Israeli security experts say that China is definitely spying in search of defense technology, with “sometimes some success”.
Nir Ben Moshe, a former director of security at the Israeli Defense Ministry, wrote in February that “the major focus of attention in the eyes of Chinese intelligence is likely to be the complex system of relations between Israel and its ally, the United States, is.”
He added that “the goals of these efforts will include major weapons systems in Israel that are being developed in cooperation with or produced by the United States.”
Ari Egozi, an official at iHLS, an Israeli security company and website, said in January that the United States had warned against Chinese companies trying to work with Israeli companies “to create companies that may look very legitimate, but in fact are aimed at is to transfer. Israeli defense technology to Israel.” China”.
The magazine listed various Chinese methods of obtaining Israeli and even American technologies from “backdoors”, either by pretending that malfunctions had occurred in Intel’s electronic chips manufactured in Israel to obtain engineering solutions, or by espionage, such as happened in a drone deal that China denies, or in other ways.
In its statement to Newsweek, the State Department said: “President Biden’s view is that we all need to play a better defense, which should include holding China accountable for its unfair and illegal practices and ensuring that American and Israeli technologies do not the PRC’s military build-up or abuse.” human rights”.
MI5 Director Ken McCallum and FBI Director Christopher Wray issued a joint warning last month about China seeking indirect ways to obtain valuable intelligence from the private sector.
Ray drew attention to the regional offices of China’s Ministry of State Security, which he said are “especially fundamental to the innovations of some Western companies.”
Research or “channels” for the outflow of technology?
Business and espionage are not the only areas in which valuable emerging and critical technology is transferred.
The magazine said Israeli scientists from at least four universities participated in joint research with at least five military research institutions in China, including Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xi’an, one of the “Seven Sons of National Defense” network that includes the Chinese defense industry feed and the People’s Liberation Army.
The projects range from new types of aircraft engines to algorithms for analyzing speech and hearing – for example, reducing noise and blurring in recordings, thereby improving the ability to monitor.
Chinese rich people and official authorities have also made donations to the branch of the Israel Technion Research Institute at Shantou University in Guangdong Province.
The Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology offers degrees in mathematics, chemical and aerospace engineering, and biotechnology. I have previously made several investments in Israeli technology companies.