US scrutiny of Israel’s China ties extends to universities

Israeli academics’ ties with China are on the United States’ radar, according to two people familiar with the matter, adding new pressure on its Middle Eastern ally to cool relations with Beijing, writes Ivan Levingston for Bloomberg News.

Academic projects involving technology research and development are a focus, one of the people said. While there has been no discussion of possible penalties or incentives to get Israel to dial down relations with Chinese universities, the person said, the US is Israel’s top benefactor and cannot be ignored. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private. A spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Israel and a spokesman for the Israeli government declined to comment.

The scrutiny is further complicating the Israeli government’s plans to develop economic ties with China. China is Israel’s second-largest commerce partner, ranking only behind the US, with US$11.9 billion in annual bilateral trade. That figure has more than doubled over the last decade, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had singled out commerce with China as a major target for expansion.
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