Proxy: Unlocking the Origins of Israel’s Military Sales to China


Although Israel had recognized the People’s Republic of China as early as January 9, 1950, no diplomatic relations were established until January 24, 1992. In the meantime, Beijing adopted a hostile attitude toward Israel, while supporting, in words and deeds, Israel’s Arab and Palestinian opponents. Nevertheless, an Israeli defense delegation arrived in China in early 1979, launching an extensive agreement on Israeli arms and military technology transfer to China. While this transfer served Israeli defense-industrial interests aimed also at gaining a foothold in China toward the establishment of diplomatic relations, it primarily served US interests to make China stronger against the Soviet Union. Threatened by the Soviets, Washington, and other potential Western arms suppliers, could not provide the Chinese with what they really needed: military technology to produce advanced weapons compatible with their own inventory and without leading to dependence. Israel could and did supply advanced and upgraded Soviet-designed arms, as well as the methods to overcome them. This was done quietly without provoking Moscow, unlike the public exchanges between China and other potential suppliers. This paper discusses the origins of Israel’s arms sales to China from different perspectives: Israel, China, and the US, which orchestrated the deals; and the Soviet Union, Western Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East, which competed or opposed them.

Recommended Citation: Yitzhak Schicor, “Proxy: Unlocking the Origins of Israel’s Military Sales to China,” CIRS Asia Paper no. 3 (2020)