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SCO expansion and India, mediating between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and the Jewish gang
Discourse Power | July 7, 2023
Greetings from Jerusalem,
This week, we look at the recent SCO summit as well as last week's report on Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's planned visit to China. Lastly, if Wang Yi, China's top diplomat, this week's remarks weren't racist enough for you, we have just the thing.
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”Russia wants China to take a more active role in order to lessen its own burden. The main concern is whether Russia's domestic situation can remain stable”
The heads of state summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this year was more animated than usual. India, the current rotating host, has refused to support China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with Prime Minister Narendra Modi intimating that rival Pakistan uses terrorism to advance state interests. However, with Iran's accession and the addition of several Arab countries and Belarus to the waiting list, SCO practitioner Pan Guang is optimistic about its role in maintaining regional security.
Dr. Pan Guang is Vice Chairman and Professor of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) Shanghai Center for International Studies, Director of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Studies Center, Dean of the Shanghai Center of Jewish Studies, and Vice President of the Chinese Association of Middle East Studies.
Excerpts from Pan’s interview with Guancha, published on July 6th:
“The idea of China and Russia serving as the twin-engine 双引擎 of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was first proposed at its inception [in 2001], and it still holds.
“Even after the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian war last year, this idea has remained largely unchanged. Although China is playing a much bigger role than before, seeing as Russia has its hands full 自顾不暇, it is still challenging for China to work around Russia.
“For example, the long-awaited China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, where Russia has historically been less active, is finally making headway. Other instances where China took the initiative are the China-Arab Summit [in December 2022] and the China-Central Asia Summit [in May 2023]. Both were held outside of the SCO framework, and neither invited Russia. Moscow did not expressly oppose them, and, in fact, spoke highly of the events.
“In actuality, China continues to exercise caution in carrying out these activities so as not to harm relations with other SCO members, particularly Russia. Additionally, at this time, Russia wants China to take a more active role in order to lessen its own burden. The main concern is whether Russia's domestic situation can remain stable. At least for the moment, the recent Wagner mutiny has subsided, and it is unlikely that the chaos will recur.
“In fact, we can go back to the Samarkand SCO Heads of State Summit in 2022. All of the heads of the member states were present at the meeting, and it was clear to all who took the lead 主角.
”Therefore, I don't think we can currently say that the twin-engine model has changed. However, one could argue that China is taking on a more significant role in it.”
“I disagree with the recent perception among many people that India has fallen into America's orbit”
“The journey of SCO expansion is actually quite fascinating. When it came to India's admission to the SCO, for instance, many people - including myself and some of the senior ambassadors - were opposed. However, once the gavel of the central government fell 拍板, it was a done deal. I still had reservations about India joining the SCO, since I was under the impression it only did so to cause trouble; later, when it did join alongside Pakistan, my views gradually changed.
“When President Hu Jintao met with Indian leaders, he said something to the effect that once India joined the SCO, there would be a new platform to solve China-India relations problems. The word "platform" has inspired me. Take, for instance, the tense situation on the Sino-Indian border, making it very difficult for the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries to meet.
“But through the SCO defense and foreign ministers' meetings, the ministers of the two nations not only met and shook hands but also held talks. Russia has played a significant role in this regard, and a special mechanism known as the China-Russia-India trilateral mechanism has been established. This mechanism has been used to hold high-level meetings between China and India in recent years, such as following the  Doklam standoff and Indian drone incident, as well as the  Galwan Valley clash.
“That is why the SCO is a very good platform, and it is not exclusive. Some problems are difficult to solve bilaterally, and that is where the SCO platform can be used to ease tensions and mediate. For example, the friction between China and India, India and Pakistan, and among Central Asian countries. The first two are mostly about borders, while the latter is about issues like enclaves, hydropower, and energy.
“A future expansion of the SCO could begin with countries that have few conflicts with existing members. Iran, which has only recently joined, is primarily at odds with Israel, but its relations with China, Russia, India, and Central Asia are not bad. The Gulf states could be the next area of focus.
“Indeed, Iran's membership in the SCO has had its ups and downs, and when then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Shanghai in 2010, he was enraged that the SCO would not accept Iran.
“But the reason was simple at the time: Iran was under UN sanctions. The SCO has a rule that states under UN sanctions are not allowed to join. When the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) came into effect in 2016, the UN lifted its sanctions against Iran. Only later has the US withdrawn from the JCPOA, making Iran subject to unilateral sanctions imposed by the US. In this case, there were no rules or restrictions preventing Iran from joining.
“In a similar vein, sanctions against Russia are not currently in place, despite the UN's condemnation of its military actions (the US-led West and NATO have sanctioned it). So, as with Belarus, there are currently no issues with sanctions, and such countries should be able to join the SCO without too much difficulty.
“In fact, Israel has twice asked to join the SCO, but I fear it will find it difficult to do so now. China, Russia, India, and Central Asian countries have friendly relations with Israel, but now that Iran has joined, it will almost certainly oppose it. Resolving these contradictions will remain a challenge.
“Foreign media recently reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wishes to visit China, hoping that China can assist in normalizing Israel's relationship with Saudi Arabia (though it by no means expects China to assist in resolving the conflict with Iran).
“The most significant aspect of SCO's expansion is the increase in volume. SCO has enormous potential in terms of population, market, area, and overall strength and influence. Second, it introduces new platforms. However, despite the fact that various parties have actively promoted the SCO's economic and trade cooperation, little progress has been made. It is primarily because of fierce competition among the member countries.
“I disagree with the recent perception among many people that India has fallen into America's orbit. Personally, I believe that India has not turned to the US and that it continues to distance itself from Washington on a number of issues.
“India hasn't explicitly stated that it has shifted to one side, at least not as of yet. It has always insisted on having it both ways or, to put it more diplomatically 脚踏两条船, being non-aligned. Even if India participates actively in the Quad, it has no intention of turning it into an alliance, let alone an "Asian mini-NATO."
“The truth of the matter is that India has grown close to the US, Japan, Australia, and other countries for other reasons. The main one is the tension between India and China, and India hopes that such "vertical and horizontal alliances" 合纵连横 would enable it to restrain China.” (Guancha)
“Netanyahu's visit to China will not only strengthen Sino-Israeli relations, but it may also help Israel establish diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and benefit the Israeli-Palestinian peace process”
According to Professor Niu Xinchun, Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), which is affiliated with the Ministry of State Security (MSS), the shifting regional landscape is "compelling Israel to seek change."
Full translation of Niu’s article, published in the Chinese version of the Global Times on the 4th of July:
"In a meeting with a visiting US congressional delegation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed for the first time that he may visit China in the near future." Netanyahu's visit to China is not novel in and of itself, and if it takes place, it will be his fourth as prime minister.
“The unique context of this visit is one of the major reasons for the widespread interest in this news. It has been six months since Netanyahu was re-elected Prime Minister, and it is customary [for Israeli Prime Ministers] to make their first trip to the United States.
“However, Israel-US relations appear to have some disagreements [lit. "crooked teeth" 龃龉], and a visit to the White House appears to have fallen through. With Netanyahu's sudden announcement to visit China first, it was only inevitable for the international media to focus on this "new trend."
“The US has long exerted significant influence over Israel's domestic, foreign, and security affairs, and a visit to the White House by the new prime minister is a symbolic procedure for gaining US backing. The Biden administration is well aware of this but has purposefully sidestepped Netanyahu, publicly stating that it has no desire to send a letter of invitation.
“To express his indignation 愤怒, Netanyahu previously barred Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant from visiting the US, forcing Gallant to travel to Brussels to meet with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. With the US-China competition intensifying, Netanyahu's sudden announcement to visit China is inevitably interpreted as "dissatisfaction with the United States."
“By all means, this is a highly unusual episode in US-Israeli relations. Other Middle Eastern countries, according to a Jewish scholar, can strike a balance between the US and China, but Israel does not have that luxury because it is too dependent on the US and must unconditionally follow it 一边倒地跟着.
“The US is indeed very important to Israel, and it takes courage 勇气 and wisdom 智慧 for Israel to "challenge" 叫板 it. Israel's GDP per capita is over $50,000, and its ranking in the UN's "most developed countries" is also relatively high. Yet, the US provides $3.8 billion in aid every year, making it the world's largest recipient of American aid [Ukraine has been the largest recipient of US aid since the Russian invasion began by a wide margin].
“Beginning with President Lyndon B. Johnson, US arms sales to the Middle East have historically been based on the idea of maintaining Israel's "qualitative military edge," which refers to Israel maintaining superiority in arms to counterbalance the quantitative advantage of the Arab states. Israel is the only country in the Middle East to receive the F-35, a fifth-generation fighter jet.
“The US and Israel have collaborated to develop and invest in missile defense systems that have allowed Israel to emerge unscathed from successive conflicts in Gaza [Israeli civilians, and even Chinese citizens, have been killed or injured by ~5% of rockets that are not intercepted by the Iron Dome].
“The US is frequently the only country to support Israel in UN Security Council votes on Israel-Palestine, and US vetoes protect Israel from international condemnation. It has paid a high political price for this "special support."
“However, as the Middle Eastern political landscape has changed over the last decade, the schism in the US-Israeli relationship has grown wider, with each side increasingly daring to test the other's limits [lit. "bottom line"].
“In terms of policy, the US seeks to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations, whereas Israel opposes any type of nuclear agreement. The US remains committed to the "two-state solution," while Israel moves closer to a "one-state reality." While the US expressly opposes settlement construction, Israel continues to expand settlements.
“Ideologically, US liberals are dissatisfied with Israel's long-standing occupation of Palestinian territories, discrimination against Israeli Arabs, and tendency to reinforce the state's Jewish character, eroding the so-called "shared values" between the two countries.
“Obama publicly accused Israel in 2013, contending that it can be either a democratic state or a Jewish state occupying the West Bank, but it cannot be both at the same time.
“When the US-Israel conflict erupted in 2015, Netanyahu defied diplomatic convention and was invited by the Republican Party to address the US Congress without Obama's invitation, becoming involved in US domestic politics and openly challenging the US bottom line.
“Biden expressed his strong opposition to Netanyahu's judicial reforms at the end of last year. In fact, he intervened in Israeli internal affairs and questioned Israel's bottom line, forcing Netanyahu to emphasize that "Israel is a sovereign state."
“Given the recent changes in the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East, the news that Netanyahu will visit China is even more significant. And given recent developments that go beyond bilateral ties, Netanyahu's trip to China assumes political importance on a regional and even global scale.
“Saudi Arabia, a key US ally for more than 70 years, began talks with Iran in Beijing in March, and relations between the two countries have since improved thanks to China's mediation.
“On April 6, Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers signed a joint statement in Beijing, formally resuming diplomatic relations between the two countries, sparking a "wave of reconciliation" 和解潮 in the Middle East.
“Clearly, Saudi Arabia's diplomatic strategy shift has influenced Israel. Netanyahu's visit to China will not only strengthen Sino-Israeli relations, but it may also help Israel establish diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia and benefit the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
“In response to questions from the Knesset's [legislature] Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Netanyahu reportedly stated that China's growing influence in the Middle East could be a good thing, obligating the US to pay more attention to the region.
“It is critical to emphasize that recent events in the Middle East should not be viewed as a zero-sum game in the midst of a volatile international environment. Regardless of who mediated them, every effort to promote peace in the Middle East—whether it be the resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, or a potential future establishment of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel— is truly a win-win 双赢 and beneficial to all 多赢.” (Global Times)
“Jews in America tend to be wealthy, so, in addition to supporting themselves, they will also fund their preferred candidates”
The next segment features Professor Wang Zhen, Pan Guang's deputy director [see first entry] at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) Center for Jewish Studies, China's premier research center for the study of Judaism, Israel, and the Holocaust (!).
Context: The sixth example in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition of antisemitism addresses one of the oldest antisemitic canards, whereby Jewish citizens are accused “of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.” Simply referred to as the “dual loyalty” charge, antisemites allege that the true allegiance of Jews is to their fellow Jews and that therefore they are inherently disloyal citizens and cannot be trusted (WJC).
A full translation of Wang’s segment, aired on state-owned Shanghai Media Group’s (SMG) KNews 看看新闻 in September 2022:
Wang: “The US Congress is made up of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The number of Senators is fixed at one hundred, with each member serving a six-year term.
“A third of the Senate is up for election every two years, so the entire Senate is re-elected every six years. Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms and are considered for reelection every even year.
“When we look at the previous list of U.S. Congress members, we see that there are a lot of representatives who had a Jewish background. Some refer to them as the "Jewish gang" 犹太帮.
“For example, there were 46 Jewish members in the 110th Congress from 2007 to 2009, and 45 Jewish members in the 111th Congress from 2009 to 2011. There were 40 Jewish members in the 112th Congress, which is a very high percentage. As I previously stated, the number of Jews [in the US] is only about 2%, but their number in Congress is more than 8%, quite a high number.
“And we're not just talking about Jewish members of Congress here; there are a large number of non-Jewish members of Congress who are staunch supporters of Israel and the Jews and are particularly influential in Congress, such as Nancy Pelosi.
“Jews in America tend to be wealthy, so, in addition to supporting themselves, they will also fund their preferred candidates. About 60% of the Democratic presidential candidate's private fundraising, according to an estimate by The Washington Post, came from Jewish contributions. President Carter once said that if someone were running for office, whether it be in the White House or Congress, they would never dare to offend Jewish interests because he or she would undoubtedly lose the election if they did.”
Voiceover: “Over the last decade, it appears that having a Jewish family connection has become a prerequisite for running for President of the United States. Hillary and Clinton's only daughter, Chelsea Clinton, married Jewish banker Mark Mezvinsky in 2010, and Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka, married Jewish real estate developer, Jared Kushner, in 2009 and converted to Judaism. Biden has two sons and a daughter. His two daughters-in-law and son-in-law are Jewish. Thus, through extensive conjugal unions, Jewish clans 犹太家族 have formed a vast network of connections in American society.
Wang: “The second thing that Jews do in American politics is lobby in Congress. The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is unique among Washington's lobbying organizations. One of its senior members, for example, once took a napkin and showed it to a New Yorker reporter, saying, "We can get 70 senators to sign this napkin in 24 hours."
“Isn't that arrogant? It is, but they can pull it off, which is why some people refer to AIPAC as the "third house" of the US Congress. In addition to the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Jewish lobby, dubbed the "King of Capitol Hill," operates as its highest-ranking lobbying group.
“The Jewish lobby has a number of distinct methods for increasing its political clout. For example, it will arrange for its preferred candidate to meet with the main bankroller leading up to the election. Before that meeting, though, they will want to know your political views, have some questions for you, and you'll want to make sure you address the majority of their concerns.
“In 2006, Howard Friedman, then-president of AIPAC, stated that they would meet with every candidate for Congress to explain the difficult situation in Israel and the complexities of the Middle East. He also stated that they would ask each candidate to write about their thoughts on the US-Israel relationship so that their stance on the issue would be crystal clear.
“Your position must not only address the lobby's concerns but also adopt their tone. This is how far they are willing to go. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stated, "Thank God we have AIPAC. It is our greatest supporter and friend on the planet."
“In addition to these two points, active holding of public office is an important practice of Jewish political participation in the US. For example, Henry Kissinger served as Secretary of State as well as an Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. Cyrus Vance, President Carter's Secretary of State, was also of Jewish descent [he wasn't]. President Clinton's Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, was also Jewish.
“Currently, the Biden administration's Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, White House Chief of Staff Ron Kline, and others are all Jews. By holding public office or acting as government advisors, they have all used these legal powers to protect the interests of the Jewish community as a whole.
“The fourth and most prominent point is that American Jews shape public discourse in ways that are more favorable to Israel and Jews. It is also a point that is frequently overlooked. We know that Jews founded many of the mainstream media outlets in America, including the New York Times and the Washington Post [clearly, Wang's never read their reporting on Israel]. Many of their proprietors are also Jewish.
“Most of us have probably heard of Rupert Murdoch. His mother was rumored to be Jewish [she wasn't]. Furthermore, many American journalists, including some columnists, and researchers are Jewish. There is a saying in academic circles that roughly 30% of university professors on the East Coast are Jews. Harvard University professor Ezra Vogel, for example, was Jewish. Lawrence Bacow, the current president of Harvard University, is Jewish, as is the president of MIT.
“For example, when the Bush Jr. administration wanted to restart the Middle East peace process in 2007, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia held a hearing. Martin Indyk was one of three experts brought in. This man is extremely pro-Israel, and he had previously worked for AIPAC. In the 1980s, he founded the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (TWI), and he served as the Clinton administration's ambassador to Israel and assistant secretary of state. So it is fair to say that he was staunchly pro-Israel.
“The second expert, David Makovsky, was also from TWI, and his position was, predictably, very similar to Indyk's. Daniel Pipes was the third expert. This man is a right-wing American Middle East scholar who runs the Middle East Forum. Following 9/11, he founded Campus Watch, a website that allows students to report statements made by teachers or students on campus that are unfavorable to Jews and Israel. It keeps a ranking of schools, a blacklist of professors at each school, and a list of those who are hostile to Jews or Israel.
“As you might expect, three ardently pro-Israel experts were invited to testify at an internal U.S. hearing on Israeli-Palestinian peace. The other party in question, the Palestinians, was neither present nor represented. One can easily envision the outcome or potential course of such a hearing. How else would it go? (Knews; Cached )
Playing in the Background
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a researcher at the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation Israel-China Policy Center at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Global China Hub, and a Tikvah Fund’s Krauthammer Fellow. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author. Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia