China Irked at U.S. Interference in Phalcon Deal

In recent weeks, senior political and security officials have been worrying about the damage to Israel's relationship with the United States created by the quashing of the weapons-sale with China. But what of China-Israel relations?

Jerusalem believes relations with China will not suffer from the cancellation of the sale of Pjalcon planes and drones. However, Chinese Minister of Information Zhao Qizheng told Haaretz last week: "We are angry about the U.S. interference. This is another example of American hegemony. Clearly, this is a breach of international trade laws. We are also sorry about Israel's decision, and of course it cannot be said that this incident is a positive one in establishing the relationship between the two countries."

Zhao refused to say whether China would demand compensation, but was quick to praise relations between the two countries.

Israel says that after Yasser Arafat's death, the attitude of the Chinese Communist party toward Sharon warmed up considerably. China is particularly keen to strengthen economic ties with Israel. Its trade with Israel in 2004 amounted to $2.5 billion, and Bejing would like to see this double by the end of the decade.

The clash between China and the U.S. involves more than Israeli weapons sales. Washington is concerned over China's arming itself, its growing economic power, and the weakness of the yuan, which was revaluated at the end of July following U.S. pressure.

There are also human-rights issues involved. "The U.S. often criticizes China's human rights record," Zhao told Haaretz, "but it does not understand our situation. We do not deny that China's human rights record is not perfect. There are problems we are trying to solve. But when the U.S. attacks China, its intentions are not pure. The U.S. does not include itself in the report the State Department publishes on human rights; it sets itself as the judge of the world. In recent years, China has been publishing a report on human rights in the U.S., to remind Americans of their own problems," he said.

According to Zhao, "Various countries have differing definitions of human rights, just as they have different cultures and different degrees of economic development." Zhao says this is the main problems between the U.S. and China. "The U.S. violates the human rights of minorities, and does not sufficiently enforce the law when it comes to drugs. Most of China's problems, on the other hand, stem from its economic situation. For example, education in rural areas is not up to the level of education in the big cities, so equality of opportunity does not exist for people born in the countryside. Also, some of our security forces are not sufficiently trained, and sometimes people remain in custody longer than they should. We must improve this situation."

In recent years, thousands of Chinese Internet cafes have been shut down, and many news Web sites blocked.

"Because of the rapid development of the Internet in China, as in many countries, there is no regulation of the Web," Zhao says in explaining the government's actions. "For example, certain people's privacy is being invaded by some of the advertising on the Internet. Others use the Web to sully the reputation of minority groups."

According to Zhao, the BBC, another site blocked in recent years, has broadcast reports based on rumors rather than fact. "But I must note that the BBC has recently improved its attitude toward China. At the moment, the BBC site is not blocked," he said.