China-Israel Relations

The featured stamps are a joint China-Israel issue, marking 20 years (as of 2012) to the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The bilateral relations between the People's Republic of China and the State of Israel are complex and manifold. Israel was the first country in the Middle East, and one of the first in the world, to recognize the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China. However, due to China's initial refusal to recognise Israel and staunch support of the Arab world, it was not until 1992 that normal diplomatic relations were established. Since then, Israel and China have developed increasingly close commercial and strategic links.

The basis for the friendly relationship between the two countries was well described by the Honorable Gao Yanping, Ambassador of China to Israel: "As a Tang dynasty Chinese poet wrote, 'Friendship knows no distance, a thousand miles is but a heartbeat away.' Though far separated by numerous mountains and rivers, China and Israel, two most ancient great civilizations with glowing vitality in the modern times, share a long history of friendly exchanges and genuine friendship between the two peoples."

Both the Chinese and Jewish peoples stem from very ancient civilizations and there is a lot of mutual respect in both Israel and China for this common attribute. The few contacts between these two civilizations in the past support this respect. The Jewish community in Kaifeng (in the Henan province of China), originally established around the 12th century, enjoyed equal rights and its members were never discriminated against or plagued by Anti-Semitism. During WW-II, China issued over 30,000 visas to Jewish refugees from Europe, allowing them entry to the city of Shanghai. This gesture strengthened and deepened the friendship between the two peoples and it shall never be forgotten.

China and Israel secretly began building some military ties in the 1980s during the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, which both countries opposed. China and Israel subsequently started exchanging visits of delegations of academicians, experts, businessmen and industrialists. China eased travel restrictions, while Israel reopened its consulate in Hong Kong (then under British administration), which would serve as the main point for diplomatic and economic contact between the two nations. In the early 1990s, China joined a number of nations who established ties with Israel after the end of the Cold War and the initiation of the peace process between Israel and the Arabs that started in the Madrid Conference of 1991.

On the eve of establishing their diplomatic relations in 1992, both nations had maintained some trade links which stood at the level of $50 million. Since then, the annual growth in trade has averaged 40%. It stood at $6.8 billions in 2010 – $2.1 billion export to China and $4.7 billion import (excluding arms trade). The majority of this trade is in the realm of information and telecom technologies, agro-technology, water and ecology. The number of Israeli companies in China and joint ventures continues to rise. There were more than 1,000 Israeli firms operating in China as of 2010. In particular, Chinese firms play an essential role in the $10-billion kosher foods industry, with hundreds of factories across China producing kosher food for the American and Israeli markets.

Israel and China maintain military cooperation and Israel is known for being an exporter of weapons and military technologies to China. China has looked to Israel for the arms and technology it wants but cannot acquire from either the United States or Russia. Heavy pressure from the USA, as well as the strong ties between China and Iran, put the kibosh on the exporting of highly sophisticated weapon systems from Israel to China. The two major crises in the relationships between the two countries since they had established diplomatic ties were related to weapon deals in which Israel was forced by the USA to cancel signed agreements with China (the “Phalcon affair” in 2000 and the “Harpy UCAV affair” in 2005).

As the Government of Israel considers the development of close relations with China to be of utmost strategic importance, it initiated a comprehensive academic cooperation scheme between Israel and China. Israel offers up to 100 Postdoctoral fellowships annually to Chinese or Indian researchers on the basis of excellence. Israel also offers 100 Bachelor's and Master's degree scholarships for Chinese students, as well as 250 scholarships annually for Chinese students to participate in summer courses. Israel's Scientific Foundation and the NSFC (China) established in 2012 a joint research cooperation and multi-annual fund to foster joint researchg projects of scientists from both countries.

In 2013, Tel Aviv University and Tsinghua University signed an MoU to establish a joint technological research center in Beijing. The Technion recently received a $130 million donation from the Li Ka Shing Foundation in order to open a branch of the Technion and Shantou University in Guangdong province for studies in the fields of technology, science and engineering.

Despite their increasingly close relationship, China and Israel remain divided over the Palestinian issue. The strong Chinese-Iranian relationship is also a thorn in the side of the bilateral relations between Israel and China.

The stamps focus on symbols of peace – a common value for both the Jewish and the Chinese cultures.

The Israeli stamp features a white dove – the "dove of peace". A white dove bearing an olive branch is one of the most recognized symbols of peace. This symbol stems from the biblical story of Noah and the Ark featured in the book of Genesis, when Noah sends the dove to find land after the flood. The dove, which returned to the ark bearing an olive branch, symbolized that the flood was over and that peace had come to the world.

The Chinese stamp features a waxwing – the "bird of peace". Legend has it that in ancient times a crow rescued the Chinese emperor. As a token of his gratitude for restoring his safety and saving his life, the emperor turned the crow into the "bird of peace", now known as the "waxwing". This bird represents the Chinese people as people who strive for peace, hope, serenity and prosperity.

Each stamp also features an element from each country's national flag: a Star of David and a pentagram.

The stamps were issued jointly by Israel and China in 2012, design: Chen Shaohua.