China Israel flags.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
On January 24th 1992，China and Israel established diplomatic relations. It was a historic decision made by both countries with exceptional foresight and ushered in a new era for the friendly exchange between our two ancient civilizations.
With joint efforts of successive leaders and people in both countries, great changes have taken place in the short span of 25 years, and the ship of China-Israel relations has sailed ahead by braving waves in leaps and bounds.
In 1992, the official exchanges between the two countries could be counted on fingers. Nowadays, mutual visits and political
exchanges are taking place at all levels. Just in the past 5 years, we have seen more than 10 exchanged visits at or above vice-Premier level, hitting a new high since 1992. We have set up the Intergovernmental Mechanism of Economic and Technological Cooperation and the Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation, and they both work well. At present, we are both making preparations for the 3rd Meeting of China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovative Cooperation,which is planned to be held in Beijing in the first half of this year.
In 1992, the bilateral trade volume between our two countries was just 50 million dollars. While in 2016, it surged to over 11 billion dollars. China is now Israel's largest Asian trading partner and third world trading partner. China’s total investment in Israel, which was insignificant in the 1990s, has now exceeded 6 billion dollars. Israel’s leading technologies, such as drip irrigation and water treatment, have been widely applied in many provinces and cities in China. Both countries are now speeding up the FTA negotiations.
In 1992, people-to-people and cultural exchanges between the two countries operated on a very limited scale. At that time, only several thousand Chinese and Israelis traveled to each other’s countries. Whereas in 2016, the overall number of Chinese tourists to Israel reached nearly 80,000, increasing by 69% in just one year. So far China and Israel have established 22 pairs of sister cities. Each week 14 direct flights crisscross between Beijing and Tel Aviv. As the mutual issuing of 10 Year Visas has come into effect, the two way people-to-people exchanges will be more convenient in the future.
In just 25 years, China and Israel have moved from a state of nearly no contact to a community of intertwined interests. Confucius said: “Review the past, and you shall know the future.” Looking back at the development of our relations, we should bear in mind and carry forward the following principles.
——Enhancing political mutual trust holds the key to our friendship. As the saying goes: “Stumbles are the tuition for learning how to walk”. History taught us clearly: Only by consolidating political basis and adopting strategic and long-term perspective can China and Israel overcome external interference and achieve steady and sustained progress in their relations. Frequent high level visits in recent years have fostered the right atmosphere for developing a master plan for China-Israel relations. If both countries continue to build trust, seek common ground and promote mutual understanding and respect, we will grasp the friendship tight no matter how the international situation changes.
——Expanding pragmatic cooperation provides driving force for growing relations. China and Israel are highly complementary in such fields as economy and innovation, which endows us with genes to be partners. China has outstanding manufacturing power and immense market, while Israel is strong in technology and innovation. China is implementing “innovation-driven development strategy” and promoting the “Belt and Road Initiative,” while Israel is carrying out its “East-ward Policies.” There is also a wide space for us to expand pragmatic cooperation in fields like new energy，modern agriculture, biological technology, etc. As long as both countries make the cake of common interests bigger, the foundation of China-Israel relations will be much stronger.
——Deepening people-to-people friendship injects everlasting vitality into our relations. The growth of China-Israel relations cannot break away from people’s extensive involvement and strong support. In the history of friendly exchanges dated back to over 1000 years, Chinese and Jewish people always respected, admired,and sympathized with each other. In the anti-fascist war, our two peoples offered mutual support and assistance. Those historical and civilization deposits laid the cornerstone for our relations. In the past 25 years，benefiting from various channels of communication, our friendship and mutual understanding have grown broader and deeper. Today, Israeli football star Mr. Eran Zahavi has become the idol of many Chinese fans. Meanwhile speaking Chinese and enjoying Chinese culture have come into fashion in Israel. “Heaped-up earth becomes a mountain；accumulated water becomes the ocean.” More frequent and in-depth people-to-people exchanges will not only hand down traditional friendship for generations, but also ensure voices in support of China-Israel cooperation prevail in the public opinion.
Chinese people always say that “when you drink the water, think of those who dug the well.” As Chinese Ambassador to Israel, I’d like to pay high tribute to each friend who has contributed to China-Israel relations in the past 25 years. Among them are many great men like former President H.E Mr. Shimon Peres as well as numerous ordinary people. Today, China-Israel relations have reached a new starting point. Let’s cherish our deep-rooted friendship, keep moving in the positive direction and bring more benefits to our two countries and two peoples.H.E Mr.Zhan Yongxin is the Ambassador of China to the State of Israel