In his landmark speech to the Knesset, US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Sunday, May 1, issued a warning: “We’ve seen successes of technological cooperation in so many areas. Today, our innovation is at risk from a new threat.” He cited the Chinese Communist Party which, he said, “act like thieves. We must not allow them to steal our technology,” he stressed.“I strongly encourage Israel to further strengthen its oversight of foreign investment, particularly Chinese investment, building on the steps that you first took in 2019,” McCarthy said.
He was referring to an investment review board Israel launched that year under pressure from the Trump administration, after Israel granted a 25-year concession to the state-owned Shanghai International Ports Group to build a $1.7bn terminal to enable Haifa Port to handle large vessels.
Both Republican and Democratic administrations in Washington view such Chinese investments as more than pure business but rather as a window opening up for electronic and intelligence penetration. The unloading facilities in Haifa, for example, give China the capacity to gather intelligence on traffic in the eastern Mediterranean, including US naval movements.
Israel was not the only country in the region to defy Washington in this respect. The United Arab Emirates is another. US intelligence recently identified Chinese military and technical personnel building a new terminal at the UAE’s important Khalifa port in the Abu Dhabi emirate. In the view of US intelligence, China’s business ventures in Haifa and Abu Dhabi are steps in its Project 141 which aims to set up 5 naval bases and 10 logistics sites in the Middle East and southeast Asia by the year 2030. Highly placed American officials have said that the US will not stand by for China to complete the Abu Dhabi port facility or any Chinese military role in the region. They did not spell out how this was to be managed.
The recently leaked Pentagon documents included reports of Chinese military activity in the UAE’s arms indusry, including the production of offensive drones and missiles. Also mentioned was Chinese activity in the construction of landing runways alongside the big US Al Dhafra Air Base.
Washington clearly does not intend letting up on bipartisan US demands for Israel to turn away from ties with China. Mcarthy’s Knesset speech was a timely reminder that the issue was still alive, along with protestations of support. “As long as I am speaker, America will continue to support full funding for security assistance in Israel,” he also said. “We must always remain resolute in our commitment that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon,” McCarthy added.