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US presses Israel for more vigilance on Chinese involvement in tech sector

Official tells forum on China-Israel ties that Washington doesn’t intend to exclude Beijing from global economy, but wants to ensure trade doesn’t threaten security, human rights

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and for Global China Issues Jung H. Pak (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)
US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and for Global China Issues Jung H. Pak (YouTube screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Israel needs to take greater action to defend its tech industry from Chinese influence, a US government official said at an annual meeting on Sino-Israel relations on Thursday.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and for Global China Issues Jung H. Pak told the Sino-Israel Global Network and Academic Leadership’s (SIGNAL) conference that Israel should take further steps to guard its “advanced critical technologies” against Chinese investment.

Pak said the US “does not wish for Israel and others in the region to decouple from China… we want to promote trade in ways that do not threaten our security and human rights values.”

The US has mounted pressure on Israel in recent years to monitor its trade relationship with China more closely, concerned about its authoritarian rival’s influence and access to the Jewish state’s high tech industry.

In January, Israel reportedly notified US President Joe Biden’s administration that it will keep the White House in the loop regarding significant deals it strikes with China and is prepared to reexamine such agreements if the United States raises opposition.

The Biden official told the SIGNAL conference that China does not adhere to widely-respected foreign investment rules: “The principles are not accepted everywhere. On the contrary, in the past they have been used for unfair profits and illiberal purposes by China.”

Pak noted the extent of China’s access and influence on Israel’s tech sector, from technology transfer programs to talent recruitment.

She said that China’s multi-million dollar investments in various capabilities, such as artificial intelligence, come from “legitimate sources such as joint research developed with foreign universities, but also through theft and financial fraud.”

She added that Washington wanted all of its allies to “raise awareness of these risks, engage in risk assessment, and develop risk management measures.”

Also speaking at the conference was David Schenker, former US assistant secretary of state for near east affairs under Donald Trump, who said that “Israel was late in understanding the challenge.”

Though the US and Israel’s bilateral relationship was resilient, he said, “a problem with China will greatly cloud the relationship.”

In this Jan. 9, 2019, photo, a security guard stands near the Huawei company logo during a new product launching event in Beijing (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

SIGNAL founder and CEO Carice Witte told the conference that technology was “at the heart of the rivalry between the US and China.”

“This rivalry has a very big impact on us. China is interested in Israel and is looking for technology here, and at the same time, it is deploying technology all over the Middle East… As China becomes a weighty regional player, it is increasingly more important that Israel formulate a clear policy in relation to it.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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