Young Israelis really like China, and Alibaba may play a part

Young Israelis really like China, and Alibaba may play a part

Israel scores higher in support for Beijing than any Western or European country besides Russia, with backing for the People’s Republic increasing faster than almost anywhere

China holds 70th anniversary celebrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square marking the founding of the People's Republic of China, October 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
China holds 70th anniversary celebrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square marking the founding of the People's Republic of China, October 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Israelis hold an unusually high opinion of China, especially young ones, and the number of China-supporters in Israel jumped in the past year more than in almost any other country.

Amid mixed reviews for Beijing worldwide, 66 percent of Israelis hold a positive view of the People’s Republic, far above global support for China, which stood at 41%, according to a Pew Research Center survey published on September 30.

Israelis like China more than any Western or European country surveyed besides Russia. In the US, 27% of respondents had a favorable view of China; in Canada, 26%; the UK, 39%; France, 33%.

Japan scored the lowest at 14%.

The only countries with a higher level of support than Israel among the 32 surveyed were Russia, at 71%, Lebanon, with 68%, and Nigeria, with 70%. Security and trade ties between Russia and China are strong, and growing.

Seventy-six percent of Israelis ages 18-29 hold a positive view of China, in cotrast to 64% Israelis over age 50. Among countries with an age gap, only young Russians hold a higher view, at 77% percent.

Sara Netanyahu takes pictures using her cellphone of her husband, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a visit at the Great Wall of China in Beijing on March 22, 2017. (Haim Zach/GPO/Flash90)

Overall, younger people surveyed had a more positive view of China, although only 34% of young Americans like China. Older people were also more likely to decline to offer any opinion.

The level of support for China in Israel jumped 11 percentage points in the past year — a bigger increase than any country besides Poland, which also went up 11 points, from 36 to 47%.

Worldwide, most countries saw a significant decrease in support for China, with the US recording a 12% drop, possibly due to President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade war with Beijing.

Muslim Indonesia saw the biggest drop, at 17%, possibly due to China’s persecution of its Muslim Uighur minority.

The jump in Israeli support could be tied to the online commerce giant Alibaba, the Calcalist business daily surmised on Sunday. Despite Israel’s small size, AliExpress, Alibaba’s retail service, said the Jewish state was one of its leading markets internationally, and its popularity in Israel was growing.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma, speaks in Tel Aviv, October 25, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Israel was the fourth largest market during the company’s annual discount sale, surpassing much larger economies like France, the report said.

Alibaba has also acquired several Israeli startups since 2015, and set up a research hub in Tel Aviv.

Amazon launched services in Israel last month.

In October 2018, Alibaba founder Jack Ma praised Israel during a visit to Tel Aviv, saying “in Israel, innovation is everywhere, like water and food, it’s so natural.”

Ma met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a May 2018 visit.

Besides Alibaba, Chinese telecom giant Huawei is known in Israel for its competitively priced smartphones and entered Israel’s solar power market in June. In January 2018, Israeli actress Gal Gadot became a brand ambassador for Huawei’s Mate 10 cellphone, billed as a direct competitor of Apple’s iPhone.

In 2018, bilateral trade between the countries hit a record $15.3 billion, up from just $51.5 million in 1992, and $13.1 billion in 2017, according to Ofer Peleg, head of the Israeli Finance Ministry’s mission in China — one of three such offices around the world.

In October 2018 Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan visited Jerusalem.

There are concerns about warming ties with Beijing — some Israeli business leaders have warned of harming relations with the US, and in January, Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman warned that massive Chinese investment in Israel could pose a danger to national security.

The Pew Center survey queried 34,904 people in 32 countries between May 13 and August 29, 2019.

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