Opening a new chapter in the China-Israel relationship

Top Chinese Communist Party official Liu Qibao talks to ‘Post’ in exclusive interview.

Liu Qibao 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/China Daily)
Liu Qibao 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/China Daily)
Liu Qibao, a senior Chinese Communist Party official in charge of information, media and culture, granted The Jerusalem Post an exclusive interview before his visit to Israel this month. He shared with us his views on the China-Israel relationship, China’s economic, social and cultural development, cultural exchanges between the two countries, and what is termed the “Chinese Dream.”
Israel is the first country you visited after you became a member of the political bureau of the CPC central committee. How do you view the friendship between China and Israel, and what do you expect from the development of this relationship?
The Chinese and the Jews are both great nations in the world with long histories and splendid cultures. We have made indelible contribution to the world civilization and have gone through various hardships. Because of these similar experiences, we have been giving each other mutual understanding, sympathy and assistance.
The touching stories of the Chinese people and the Israeli people helping each other during World War Two have been cherished and passed down by generations.
The passage of time has not changed the spirit of mutual affection and assistance between the two peoples.
In 2008 when I was the party secretary of Sichuan Province, a devastating earthquake hit the province on May 12. Immediately after that, the Israeli government sent us the message of condolence and provided valuable assistance. Two university students from Israel were trapped [and] in danger when the quake occurred, [and] local people risked their own lives and finally rescued them successfully. These are testimonies of the long friendship between our two countries.
The friendship between our two peoples makes us feel warm in heart and also lays the solid foundation for the comprehensive development of China-Israel relationship.
Our bilateral relationship has grown robust and mature over the past 21 years of diplomatic relations.
The exchange of visits between senior officials is frequent, which builds up mutual political trust. Trade and economic ties grow fast. China is now Israel’s largest trading partner in Asia and the third largest as [far as] the whole world is concerned.
Cooperation in science and technology is fruitful.
Cultural and people-to-people exchanges are more and more active. I believe that with the joint efforts from the leaders and peoples of our two countries, China-Israel relationship will undoubtedly embrace a bright future.The sustained, fast economic growth in China over the past 30 years has been an astonishing success. But as we understand, the growth rate is not as fast now as it was at the beginning of this year. This created concerns about China’s economic future. What’s your view on this?
China has made enormous economic and social progress in the past 30 years of reform and opening up, significantly lifting up the national strength. The economy has grown by 10 percent on average during this [period]. China’s GDP grew from 360 billion RMB yuan in 1978 to 51.93 trillion yuan in 2012, ranking second in the world. The income of the population has risen sharply. The disposable income of urban residents grew from 343 yuan in 1978 to 24,565 yuan in 2012 in per capita terms. The net income of rural residents increased from 134 yuan to 7,917 yuan over the same period.
Compulsory education has been provided free of charge and the basic pension insurance scheme has been established in both urban and rural areas. Universal health insurance has been basically set up. All this secures social harmony and stability, as well as people’s livelihood.
At present, the global economy is on a difficult road to recovery. The Chinese government has stayed poised to tackle complex situations both at home and abroad and successfully maintained economic stability. China’s GDP grew by 7.6% in the first half of this year, a lower rate compared with the past, but still higher than most other countries in the world.
This is the outcome of China’s active efforts to rebalance its economy.
In the face of macro economic policies, we are determined to push ahead economic restructuring to realize the transformation and upgrade of the Chinese economy.
The priority is no longer solely given to the GDP.
Rather, greater attention is placed on the quality and effectiveness of the growth. We would rather slow down the growth rate a bit in order to address the problems affecting long-term economic development.
We are confident about realizing sustainable and healthy development of the Chinese economy.
Last year saw the transition of party and government leadership in China. President Xi Jinping proposed the “Chinese Dream” for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. What’s the Chinese Dream about, and what does it mean to the world?
The Chinese Dream of national rejuvenation is a strategic notion which spells the long-cherished wishes of generations of Chinese people. It sets forth for us an aspiring goal and depicts a bright prospect of development in China. The Chinese Dream is about realizing prosperity, national rejuvenation and people’s happiness through peaceful and civilized means. As a dream of peace and harmony, its essence conforms to the dreams of other nations. The Chinese Dream will not only bring benefit to the Chinese people, but also to others, including the people of Israel.
The Chinese people are nowadays working hard for the Chinese Dream. We aim to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects by 2020, where both the GDP and per capita income will be doubled on the 2010 basis. By the middle of this century, we aim to develop China into a modern socialist country of prosperity, democracy, cultural progress and harmony.
To realize these goals, we need a peaceful and stable international environment. China will be firm in following the path of peaceful development and committed to a development approach that promotes opening up, cooperation and win-win outcomes. We will also call upon all other countries to follow the path of peaceful development.
The development of China will bring the world more opportunities. It’s estimated that China will import $10 trillion of goods, raising its overseas investment to $500 billion, and [will] see more than 400 million people traveling abroad as tourists in the next five years.
We hope that China and Israel can work together in the days ahead to realize our shared dreams of peace, development, cooperation and win-win outcomes. We have no doubt that the close cooperation between China and Israel will be conducive to the region and the world at large.
China has achieved a great deal in cultural development in recent years. As a senior official in charge of cultural affairs, could you tell us more about this?
Great importance has been [assigned] by the Chinese government to cultural development. Cultural reform and development have [gained] pace in recent years.
The Chinese people have enjoyed richer and more diversified cultural activities.
In general, the overall strength of the cultural industry has been beefed up and [has] become more competitive.
Major progress has been achieved in developing the public cultural service system. The population coverage of radio and TV broadcasting reached 97.5% and 98.2% respectively in 2012. Public access to books, films, radio and TV broadcasting was made much easier.
Cultural production is booming.
In 2012, China became the biggest publisher in the world both in terms of categories and total numbers of publications. In that single year, about 4,000 novels were written. A total of 506 TV dramas and 893 films were produced, making China the biggest producer of TV dramas and third-biggest producer of films.
The market of cultural consumption keeps growing. In 2012, the box-office revenue of films amounted to RMB 17 billion, representing a 36% increase from the previous year. China thus became the second-largest film market in the world, [second only to] the United States.
What can you tell us about cultural exchanges between China and Israel? What do you expect from these exchanges?
Cultural exchanges are a heart-winning enterprise that may shape our future. Cultural ties help enhance mutual trust between countries and bind peoples together as friends. Recent years saw much closer cultural cooperation between China and Israel, particularly in education, tourism, information, publication, health, radio and television.
We have launched a number of cultural exchange activities, such as “Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between China and Israel” and “Experience China in Israel.” In Tel Aviv University and The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Confucius Institutes have been established, which provide Israeli friends with a platform to learn about Chinese culture.
Walk into Israel – A Land of Milk and Honey, a documentary made by CCTV, was very well received by Chinese audiences. It’s because of our long-running efforts in developing cultural exchanges that China- Israel friendship can flourish and our two peoples can understand each other so well. We will continue to sponsor various kinds of cultural exchange activities and reinforce our cooperation in science, technology, education and tourism, so that the deepgoing cultural and people-to-people exchanges between us will make China-Israel friendship more popular and long-lasting.