Gung-ho in Guangzhou

Israeli journalists witness the vast potential of South China.

By
August 19, 2018 09:10
4 minute read.
THE ISRAELI JOURNALISTS pose for a photo with their Chinese hosts  at the Canton Tower

THE ISRAELI JOURNALISTS pose for a photo with their Chinese hosts at the Canton Tower. (photo credit: XIALONG ZHUANG)

 
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GUANGZHOU – ‘Gung-ho” in English means “enthusiastic” and originates in the Chinese term “gongyèhézuòshè.” The Chinese characters “gong” and “” mean “work together,”and if there is one thing our delegation of eight Israeli journalists to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou (which literally means “vast place”) learned in early August, tracked by teams of Chinese journalists, was that Israel and Guangzhou really do work well together.

Both Israel and Guangzhou (whose population of 16 million is almost double Israel’s) are ancient civilizations that have become hubs of modern innovation.

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The ostensible reason for our trip was to fly on the inaugural Dreamliner flight of Hainan Airways from Tel Aviv to Guangzhou on August 2, which we celebrated before landing nine hours later with champagne and cake. But at the end of our visit, on August 6, we also attended the impressive opening by the Guangzhou Sino-Israel Biotech Investment Fund (GIBF) of a cutting-edge technology incubator on Bio-tech Island, and participated in a forum of “Conversations between Guangzhou and Israel” hosted by the Guangzhou Information Office. “We have a very high and unique level of technological cooperation,” said Israeli consul-general Nadav Cohen at the ceremony.

We experienced the delights of an exciting modern city with a rich culture and history. We stayed at an luxurious hotel called The Garden Hotel Guangzhou, where you can have breakfast while looking out the window at a waterfall with goldfish in the pond below.
We received royal treatment and warm hospitality throughout the tour. We were guided by the directors of the impressive Women and Children’s Medical Center, which boasts 30,000 births a year (Chinese families may now have two children) and the Ophthalmology Hospital, the biggest in China, which sees 70,000 patients a year.

We visited a number of Chinese-Israeli startup partnerships, including G Medical Innovations, led by Dr Yacov Geva, an Israeli entrepreneur who has developed wireless devices for cellphone monitoring of human beings’ vital signs – which, he predicts, “will save millions of lives, especially in China.”

Dr. Shuki Gleitman, a former Israeli chief scientist who serves as chairman of both GIBF and the Guangzhou Innovation Center in Tel Aviv, said that since January 2017, some $100 million have been invested in joint cooperation, and five new local companies have been established together with top Israeli companies in the life sciences. “China is really open for doing business with Israel,” he said. “It’s the largest untapped market for the Israeli business sector.”

Xian Yinsong, executive vice chair of Guangzhou’s Huangpu District, said the incubator marked “an exciting moment in Chinese-Israeli cooperation.”

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These include Neurotech Solutions, a leading provider of software-based ADHD screening and diagnostic tests for the Women and Children’s Medical Center, headed by CEO Ohad Lavi, who predicts the company will reach sales worth $75m. within three years. And then there was Alpha Omega Engineering, which develops pioneering equipment in the field of neurology, and whose president Dr. Imad Younis, an Israeli Arab from Nazareth, praised “the passion of the Chinese people.”

I particularly enjoyed visiting the Guangzhou Auto Company, where we saw how Israeli technology is being used to develop battery-operated autonomous vehicles that promise to reduce the number of traffic accidents.

Shirly Coifman, Israel’s commercial consul in Guangzhou, told us that Israel’s economic missions in China (two in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Hong Kong) are a result of a 2013 Israeli government decision to expand economic relations with China. “Guangzhou is not only known for its beauty, but is also the capital of the most important province in China economic-wise, and ranks No. 1 in China’s GDP,” she said. “The economy in South China alone is responsible since January 2018 for contributing over $34m. to Israeli industry.”

In between the more serious discussions we had, we also had some fun, watching Israeli soccer star Eran Zahavi play in the Guangzhou Derby (in which he scored a goal in his team’s 4-2 loss to Evergrande) together with 50,000 fans – and we even got to chat after the game with Israel’s highest-earning sportsman and his wife, Shay, before his 31st birthday celebration. We also visited the Nanyue Kingdom Palace museum, a large excavation site with rocky ruins dating back more than 2,000 years.

But perhaps the highlight of the trip for me was doing the scary “Sky Fall” drop from the top of the 604-meter (nearly 2,000-foot) tall Canton Tower. As I contemplated the spectacular view of Guangzhou’s skyscrapers and greenery, with the sparkling Pearl River below, where we were later treated to a cruise and dinner, I could not think of a more fascinating place to visit for Israelis.

“We are two ancient cultures who have not only survived and thrived, but are now leading the world in innovation, particularly in life sciences,” said international media consultant Ofra Preuss, who led the delegation of Israeli journalists. “It’s a natural partnership. We love them, and they love us.”

The writer was a guest of the Guangzhou Innovation Office and Hainan Airlines.

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