Some say that China is becoming the second economic superpower after the United States, and certainly as far as Israel is concerned, it's coming true. In 2007, Chinese exports to Israel passed Germany's for the first time.

Imports from China grew to $4.6 billion in 2007, up from $3.2 billion the year before, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Germany had ranked second in 2006 with exports to Israel of $3.2 billion. Its exports rose to $3.3 billion last year.

The U.S., remained the sole real superpower in exports to Israel: $8.1 billion in 2007, compared with $6.2 billion the year before.

However, for years China has been gradually closing the gap with America in terms of exports to Israel, at least. Meanwhile, Israeli exports to China aren't growing much. The pattern of exports to Israel complies with Beijing's policy of driving growth through exports.

Shauli Katznelson, deputy director general at the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, believes that China is fated to supplant the U.S. as the main exporter to Israel. "It won't happen in two or three years," says Katznelson. "China's rise will take a long time. But the direction is clear," he adds.

Chinese manufacturing had been characterized by low-cost products of dubious quality, Katznelson says. Their safety had also been questioned. But in recent years Chinese manufacturers have been improving quality and are also making products of increasing sophistication. The result is that their products cost more.

In 2007, Israel imported a total of $56.6 billion worth of goods, out of which $24.2 billion originated from Europe. Among the countries from which Israel imported more than a billion dollars' worth of goods last year were Belgium, Japan, Russia, Turkey, India, Switzerland, France, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and South Korea.

From 2000 to 2007, Israel sharply increased imports from a host of countries such as Poland, Brazil, Argentina, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt and Colombia. But the sharpest increase was in imports from China, which grew from $0.9 billion in 2000 to $4.6 billion last year