Jan 24, 2022 - World

Israel holds high-level tech summit with China, seeks to avoid U.S. backlash

Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan visits Jerusalem in 2018. (Photo by Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty

To avoid tensions with Washington, Israel coordinated with the Biden administration in advance of a high-level tech and economy summit held virtually with Chinese officials on Monday, two Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Monday's summit, led by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, followed low-profile consultations on China last month between the U.S. and Israeli governments — a sensitive issue given U.S. concerns about Chinese investments in Israel.

  • During Monday's meetings, which included representatives of several government ministries on both sides, Israel and China agree to a three-year plan for cooperation on the economy, science, research and development, and technology.
  • Many of these issues are at the center of the Biden administration's concerns. Both the Trump and Biden administrations have expressed concern in particular over Chinese investments in Israeli infrastructure projects.

Behind the scenes: The Israeli Foreign Ministry notified the State Department of the gathering in advance “at a senior working level" and the U.S. didn't raise any concerns, an Israeli official told Axios.

  • Both Israeli officials stressed they were cognizant of U.S. concerns and wanted to proceed with maximum transparency. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Flashback: On Dec. 14, Israeli and U.S. teams led by the deputy national security advisers from both sides held wide-ranging talks on China policy. A week later, national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised some of the same issues with Lapid and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett while visiting Israel.

Go deeper: Biden administration presses Israel on Chinese investments

Go deeper