Asia ahead in courting hi-tech IsraelMay. 23, 2013
ISRAELI Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent visit to China was revealing. Despite Chinese criticism of alleged Israeli airstrikes on arms shipments in Syria, Beijing arranged a program that strongly hinted it regards Netanyahu as an important visitor.
The welcome mat put out for Netanyahu in Beijing is part of a growing trend across east, south and southeast Asia. Israel's reputation as the "start-up nation" - a dynamic economy centred on hi-tech, innovation and entrepreneurship - is causing regional leaders to sit up and take notice. Israeli leaders - long focused on the US and Europe - are starting to make the Asian region a new priority.
In all of this, the Arab-Israel conflict - what most people think about in relation to Israel - plays only a minor part.
It is true that China is interested in being more active as a potential broker in relation to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, symbolised by inviting Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas to visit just before Netanyahu. But Abbas was reportedly given less "face time" with key Chinese leaders and his visit a lower profile in the Chinese media. China may want to play a role in promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace, but, regardless of whether that is achievable, Chinese leaders know that Israeli-Chinese trade and economic co-operation is highly valuable and only likely to become more so.
For the full column in The Australian click here.