From March 5 to 20 2018, the first session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) was successfully convened in Beijing. Almost simultaneously, the first session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top political advisory body, was also held. The “two sessions” are the most important political events in China, serving as a window for the world to know more about what the country is doing and will do in the future.
During the two sessions, representatives from all walks of life made significant decisions on the most important issues that will guide China’s development and its increasingly friendly cooperation with Israel.
The most important thing is to elect the state leaders. Mr. Xi Jinping was reelected China’s president and Mr. Wang Qishan was elected its vice president. Mr. Li Keqiang was once again nominated and approved as premier of the State Council, a position equivalent to the prime minister of the cabinet.
Mr. Li Zhanshu was elected chairman of the 13th NPC Standing Committee and Mr. Wang Yang, who visited Israel as vice premier in 2015, was elected chairman of the 13th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The NPC session also adopted a massive cabinet restructuring plan to make the government more efficient and service-oriented.
Another important result is that the NPC approved a landmark constitutional amendment. The NPC session enshrined Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era into the constitution. The inclusion of Xi’s thought into the country’s fundamental law reflects the common aspiration of all Chinese people.
The addition of Xi’s thought has ensured that the country’s guiding theories will advance with the times. The amendment has enriched clauses on harmonious relations among ethnic groups and peaceful foreign policies, including the addition of building a community with a shared future for all mankind.
WHAT IS the impact of these changes on China’s development? First, China will stick to its current social system and policies. Since the establishment of the People’s Republic, China has adhered to a socialist system. The great achievements China made in the past 70 years have proved that China has selected the right road of development.
Socialism with Chinese Characteristics is suited to realities in China and has won the support of the Chinese people.
Second, China will stick to reform and a policy of “opening up.” This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up.
When delivering the government work report at the opening conference of the annual NPC session, Premier Li Keqiang stressed that China would endeavor to make continued breakthroughs in reform this year and continue to develop and unleash productive forces.
China will increase its efforts to build a law-based and fair business environment for entrepreneurship and innovation; to transform and upgrade the real economy; and to support advanced equipment manufacturers to compete globally.
Third, China will stick to the current road of development and put more stress on innovative development.
Over the past five years, innovation- driven development has yielded fruitful outcomes. China’s investment in research and development has grown at an average annual rate of 11%, ranking second in the world in its scale. The contribution of technological advances to economic growth has risen from 52.2% to 57.5%. China will also pay more attention to green development, so as to make the environment cleaner and healthier.
China will place more stress on open development and shared development. We want to develop together with all other countries of the world, including Israel.
Fourth, China will stick to peaceful foreign policies. We will try to make friends with all the countries in the world. In the next few years, China will commit to the establishment of the new type of international relations which is characterized by mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation.
China has called upon all nations to help build a community with a shared future for all. As a matter of fact, the Belt and Road Initiative aims exactly at bringing about that community, which is to share China’s development opportunities with countries along those routes.
It is neither a zero-sum game nor a one-man show. Rather, it is an invitation of development and prosperity open to all. Over a span of four years, the Belt and Road Initiative has grown into a major platform of cooperation for the countries involved in order to attain common development.
China’s economy has maintained rapid, steady growth over the past five years: GDP has risen from 54 trillion RMB yuan (roughly $8.8 trillion) to 82.7 trillion RMB yuan (about $13 trillion), registering average annual growth of 7.1%. Its share in the global economy has grown to roughly 15%, up from 11.4%. China’s contribution to global growth has exceeded 30%. Business startups and innovation are thriving all over the country. The average number of new businesses opened daily has risen from just over 5,000 to more than 16,000. In 2017, GDP grew by 6.9% and personal income rose 7.3%. Around 13.51 million urban jobs were created, and the jobless rate was the lowest in recent years. The total value of imports and exports rose 14.2%. According to statistics released by the World Bank, China’s ranking in the environment for doing business has moved up 18 places from 2013 to number 78 in 2017 among more than 180 global economies.
CHINA’S DEVELOPMENT is beneficial not only to Chinese people but also to the Israeli people. China welcomes Israel to join in taking the same fast development train together.
At present, China-Israel relations are maintaining a good momentum of development. Both sides see frequent exchanges and close contacts of high-ranking officials.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a successful visit to China last March, with the two sides announced the establishment of Innovative Comprehensive Partnership.
Economic and trade cooperation between China and Israel continues to develop rapidly. People- to-people and culture exchanges are becoming warmer, friendlier and more frequent. Thanks to direct flights between big cities in China and Tel Aviv, nearly 140,000 Chinese people visited Israel in 2017. The Chinese Culture Center in Tel Aviv opened to the public last year, becoming another window by which Israelis are learning more about China.
Currently, there are two pillars in China-Israel cooperation. One is economic cooperation and the other is innovation cooperation.
The Belt and Road Initiative plays an important role regarding economic cooperation. China is now Israel’s largest trading partner in Asia and its third largest world-wide. The two-way trade volume surpassed $13 billion in 2017, with a year-onyear growth rate of 15.6%. China has invested more than $6.5b. in Israel and that amount continues to grow. The Free Trade Agreement negotiations are under way. There are many forms of pragmatic cooperation between us in a wide variety of areas, especially in infrastructure construction, investment, technology, innovation and agriculture.
For example, Pan-Mediterranean Engineering Co. Ltd. of China is the main builder of the New Ashdod Port. When the New Ashdod Port project finishes, it will not only benefit Israel and its people but the countries and people around the eastern Mediterranean.
China Railway Group Limited and China Civil Engineering Corporation are building the light rail in Tel Aviv. The Tel Aviv Red Line will enable residents to enjoy rapid and comfortable public transportation while reducing traffic jams. China’s Sinohydro Corporation is building a pumping hydro-power station in northeastern Israel, which will contribute to the stability of Israel’s national electrical power grid and may spare the need to build additional conventional power stations.
With its booming innovation and exceptional hi-tech sector, Israel has become a very important partner with China in regards to innovation cooperation. Recent years have witnessed this relation between China and Israel getting closer and smoother. Israel is wellknown as the “Start-Up Nation,” strong in creativity and innovation.
One might say that Israel is the expert in moving from 0 to 1, while China, with its strong manufacturing capacity and huge market, is the expert at moving from 1 to 100. China’s development will bring more and better opportunities to Israel. Today, many Chinese IT companies like Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent are eyeing Israeli innovation technologies and start-ups.
I believe there will continue to be more investment by China in Israeli innovation.
After China’s two sessions this year, reform and opening up will be further deepened. China will push for the high-quality development of the economy, optimize the business environment and stimulate market vitality and creativity. We fully believe that both China and Israel will take these great opportunities and push their bilateral cooperation to new heights. Both China and Israel will harvest great benefits for the economic development of both nations and the well-being of both peoples.The writer is the ambassador of China to Israel.
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