Beijing continues unceasingly to develop its « Silk Road » project. China’s vice-President, Wang Qishan, has undertaken a tour of the Near East which took him to Israël for four days. According to the agreements which have already been signed, within two years China will control the major part of Israël’s agro-food industry, its high technology and its international exchanges. A free trade agreement should follow, and the geopolitics of the whole region will be turned upside down.
The visit of Chinese vice-president Wang Qishan to Israël, Palestine, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates is aimed at developing the « New Silk Road ».
In the autumn of 2013, China made public its project for the creation of maritime and especially terrestrial communication routes across the world. It unblocked colossal sums of money and began to realise its plan at a rapid rate. The main axes will cross either Asia or Russia towards Western Europe. But it is also planning routes across Africa and Latin America.
The obstacles to the New Silk Road
The project is going to meet two obstacles, one of them economic, the other strategic.
From the Chinese point of view, this project is aimed at exporting its products according to the model of the ancient « Silk Road » which, from the 2nd to the 15th century, linked China to Europe via the Ferghana Valley, Iran and Syria. At the time, this concerned transporting products from town to town, so that at each stage they were exchanged for other goods according to the needs of the local merchants. However, today, on the contrary, China hopes to sell directly to Europe and the world. But their products are no longer exotic wares (silks, spices, etc.) but identical to those of the Europeans, and often of superior quality. The commercial route has been transformed into a super-highway. While Marco Polo was dazzled by the silks from the Far East without their equivalent in Italy, Angela Merkel is terrified at the idea of seeing her automobile industry destroyed by her Chinese competitors. The developed countries are therefore going to have to do business with Beijing, and at the same time, protect their industries from economic shock.
By massively exporting its production, China will take over the commercial place that the United Kingdom – at first alone, then with the United States – has occupied since the industrial revolution. It was specifically to maintain this supremacy that Churchill and Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter and the United States engaged in the Second World War. It is therefore probable that the Anglo-Saxons will not hesitate to employ military force in order to hinder the Chinese project , just as they did in 1941 when faced with the German and Japanese projects.
Already in 2013, the Pentagon published the Wright plan, which programmed the creation of a new state straddling Iraq and Syria in order to cut the Silk Road between Baghdad and Damascus. This mission was carried out by Daesh – China therefore modified the layout of its route. Beijing finally decided to build the route through Egypt, and invested in the doubling of the Suez Canal and the creation of a vast industrial zone 120 kilometres from Cairo . Similarly, the Pentagon organised a « colour revolution » in Ukraine in order to cut the European route, and stirred up trouble in Nicaragua in order to prevent the construction of a new canal linking the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Despite the unprecedented importance of Chinese investment in the New Silk Road, we have to remember that in the 15th century, China launched a formidable navy in order to secure its markets. Admiral Zheng He, « the eunuch with three gems », fought the pirates of Sri Lanka,built pagodas in Ethiopia and made the pilgrimage to Mecca. Notwithstanding, on his return, for reasons of interior politics, the Emperor abandoned the Silk Road and burned his ships. China then withdrew into itself. So we should not imagine that, from the Chinese point of view, the current project is a pre-ordained success.
In the recent past, China invested in the Middle East with the sole idea of ensuring its supply of oil. It built refineries in Iraq which were inconveniently destroyed either by Daesh or by the Western Forces who were pretending to combat the Islamists. Beijing also became the main buyer of Saudi Arabia’s « black gold ». It also constructed in the Kingdom the gigantic oil complex of Yasref-Yanbu for 10 billion dollars.
- Signature of the concession for the port of Haïfa at the Shanghai International Port Group
Israël and the New Silk Road
The links between Israël and China date from the mandate of Israëli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose parents had fled the Nazis in order to settle in Shanghai. Benjamin Netanyahu’s predecessor had tried to establish strong relations with Beijing, but his efforts were nullified by his support for one of the Somali pirate groups tasked by Washington with disturbing Russian and Chinese maritime traffic at the exit of the Red Sea . A scandal was avoided by inches. China was authorised to establish a naval base in Djibouti, and Ehud Olmert was excluded from political life.
China has been negotiating a free-trade treaty with Israël since 2016. In this context, the Shanghai International Port Group has bought the concession for the exploitation of the ports of Haïfa and Ashdod, so that by 2021,China will control 90 % of Israëli commercial exchanges. Bright Food has already acquired 56 % of the Tnuva kibbutzim cooperative, and could increase its participation, so that China would control most of the Israëli agricultural market. The founder of the on-line store « Ali Baba », Jack Ma, who came to Tel-Aviv as part of the official Chinese delegation, did not hide his intention to buy up a number of Israëli start-ups in order to recuperate their high technology.
Armament is the only important sector of the Israëli economy still preserved from the Chinese appetite. In September, with the aid of the US Hudson Institute, professor Shaul Horev organised a conference at Haïfa university in order to alert the Pentagon’s general staff to the consequences of Chinese investment. In particular, the speakers emphasised that these contracts exposed the country to the risk of intensive spying, making it difficult to exploit the port for its nuclear missile-launching submarines, as well as its links with the US 6th Fleet.
The ex-director of Mossad, Ephraïm Halevy, known for his proximity to the United States, pointed out that the National Security Council had never deliberated on these investments, but that the decision had been made solely for reasons of commercial opportunity. This raises the question of whether or not Washington had authorised the rapprochement between Tel-Aviv and Beijing.
We should make no mistake about the reasons which allowed China to implant a military base in Djibouti, and it seems unlikely that Beijing concluded a secret agreement with Washington for the layout of this new Silk Road. Certainly, the United States will not be too worried about an economic collapse of the European Union. However, in the long term, China and Russia are obliged to maintain good relations in order to protect themselves from the Western powers. History has shown that the latter have done, and continue to do everything possible to dismantle these major powers. Consequently, if a China-US alliance would be in favour of Beijing in the short and medium term, it would lead thereafter to the successive elimination of Russia and China itself.
The Chinese-Israëli agreements suggest that, as Lenin said, « the capitalists will sell us the rope we shall use to hang them ».