On April 8, President Shimon Peres will embark on a state visit to China. It will be the first time President Peres has paid a visit to China since 2008 when he attended the opening ceremony of Beijing Olympic Games. It will also be the first time an Israeli president has paid a state visit to China since 2003.
Peres is going to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The leaders of the two countries will exchange views on bilateral relations, as well as regional and international issues. The visit is of great significance, and will promote a new high in China- Israel relations.
As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “Amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states.”
The friendship between the Chinese and Jewish nations dates back more than 1,000 years. The Jewish people in then-Chinese capital, Kaifeng, enjoyed equal rights to the Chinese.
From the 1880s onward, thousands of Jews went to northeast China because of rising anti-Semitism in Russia and Eastern Europe, forming the largest Jewish community in the Far East. Before and during World War II, when Jews were struggling for survival against the Nazi Holocaust, China was the only country which opened its door to Jewish people and Shanghai received over 23,000 Jew refugees and helped them make it through the most difficult times. Some Jews in China actively supported and participated in the Chinese struggle against Japanese invasion. Later on, they worked hard with the Chinese people in building the new China. The friendly interaction between the two peoples has laid a solid foundation for China-Israel relations.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Israel on January 24, 1992, our relations have stood up to the test of a variety of complex situations and international challenges. We experienced ups and downs, but we dealt with our relations from an overall and long-term perspective, and kept the momentum going.
Now the China-Israel relations are in the best-ever shape. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited China last May. Five important agreements were signed and consensus on many issues was reached between our leaders during his visit. The G2G (Government to Government) mechanism has been established and five task forces have been set up in the fields of high technology, environmental protection, energy, agriculture and financing, respectively.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Israel for friendship, cooperation and peace in December. The exchanges between the two countries now take place at the central governmental level, as well as at the provincial and municipal levels, and involve people from all walks of life.
People-to-people exchanges are also on the rise, with tens of thousands traveling between China and Israel every year.
Many performance groups come to Israel, and offer audiences the finest Chinese culture. The famous Chinese artist Yao Yuan presented Haifa with his monumental work “Sculpture for World Peace,” which has become a symbol of fraternity, harmony and coexistence. Chinese celebrities post beautiful photos in the Chinese social media after their trips to Israel, which amaze and encourage more people to visit Israel. The famous Chinese actor Mr. Liu Ye, whom the Israeli Tourism Ministry has designated as Israel’s tourism ambassador, wrote in his microblog that “Israel is a beautiful and peaceful country, and the Israeli people are the most friendly people I have ever met.”
The pragmatic cooperation between the two countries has been flourishing. China is Israel’s third-largest trading partner globally, and its biggest trading partner in Asia. The two-way trade volume increased by almost 200 times, from only a little more than $50 million in 1992 to more than $10 billion in 2013, which means that today, bilateral trade in two days equals that of the whole year of 1992.
Our cooperation has been expanded from agricultural cooperation in the early days to almost all areas today, such as science and technology, education, culture, arts, tourism and academia. With the burgeoning cooperation come more tangible benefits and many job opportunities for the two peoples.
We are full of confidence in China’s future. China successfully concluded the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in November.
We are unwaveringly committed to comprehensively deepening reforms, and have drawn the blueprint for China’s development in the years to come. Now 1.35 billion Chinese people are in an endeavor to realize the Chinese Dream of accomplishing the great renewal of the Chinese nation, which consists of two major goals, namely, to finish building a society of initial prosperity in all respects by 2020 and to turn China into a modern socialist country by the mid-21st century.
The Chinese Dream will bring the world more opportunities, and will benefit Israel in many ways. It is projected that in the coming five years, China’s imports will reach some $10 trillion, its outbound investment $500b., and the number of its outbound tourists may well exceed 400 million annually, 50 times Israel’s total population.
There were only 70,000 Chinese tourists to Israel last year. The potential of growth is obvious.
President Peres has ever said, “Israel is too small but quite ambitious.” For China, Israel is never a small country, but rather, a happy and innovative startup nation with many cutting- edge technologies and rich experience in governing social affairs. China is first of all a growing market for Israel. Quite a number of Israeli companies have already invested in China and more are joining in. Of course China is far beyond simply a market. To say the least, China’s rich culture, beautiful scenery and great potential are of great interest to Israel.
Looking ahead, our relations are blessed with marvelous opportunities for further development.
Our two governments share the goal of enhancing friendship and mutual understanding, the efforts to expand win-win cooperation and the determination to push forward our relations. Our relations will surely become more and more comprehensive, complementary, mutually beneficial and dynamic for the years to come.
China would like as always to make joint and persistent efforts with Israel to enhance our mutual respect and trust, explore the great potential of cooperation and steer the relations into an even greater and brighter future. I have no doubt that the close cooperation between China and Israel will be conducive to regional stability, world peace and global prosperity.
I am fully convinced that with President Peres’s visit to China, a brighter future for our friendship and cooperation will be ushered in. It is foreseen that the visit will bring about a number of deliverables covering areas from science and technology to culture exchanges. That means that in the days and months to come, there will be more interactions at various levels so as to follow up to the visit and make substantive progress on the ground. And with more interactions, the two sides will have even better mutual understanding and will have more chances to explore possibilities of new cooperation projects.
But most of all, this visit will cement our relations and bring China and Israel even closer.
The momentum is set. In the beautiful spring of China, China- Israel relations are soon to be kicked off to a new, promising start.
The writer is the People’s Republic of China’s ambassador to the State of Israel.