Economy Attaché: Israelis, Chinese closing deals online amid COVID-19

It’s important to remember that when a Chinese businessman says “we will invest” he also means “when you move to China” – something that an Israeli negotiator might be unaware of.

Economic attaché of the Israeli Economy and Industry Ministry in Beijing, China Yair Albin (photo credit: Courtesy)
Economic attaché of the Israeli Economy and Industry Ministry in Beijing, China Yair Albin
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Yair Albin’s job isn’t easy. Stationed in Beijing, the economic attaché and his team work hard to promote Israel’s economic interests in China during the COVID-19 era and the uncertainties the pandemic has brought with it.  
Having worked in China for the Economy Ministry for four years, Albin has first-hand experience introducing Israeli and Chinese businessmen to each other, overseeing the growth in commerce between both nations, and observing how a nation of 1.4 billion people had been first hit by, and then responded to, a pandemic.  
“In Hangzhou,” a city with 10 million residents in east-China and where the Ali Baba Group HQ is locate, “an app was created to monitor the health of the people,” he told The Jerusalem Post. That app is now being used all over China. “If we in Israel had talked about the stop-light program with Red and Green cities [with high and low infection rates], here they had the people be Green or Red.”
Albin expressed his admiration at how committed people around him are to wearing masks and maintaining a social distance. “In Qingdao,” on the coast of the Yellow Sea, “they were able to check nine million people for COVID-19 in five days,” he said.  
If you look at countries, China is Israel’s second largest trading partner after the US. If you include the EU, it is third after the US and the EU. Even after the limitations brought on by COVID-19, the trade volume between China and Israel from January to August reached $10.5 billion, a 4.5% increase from 2019. “China,” he said, “is one of the few countries that can point to positive growth during the pandemic.” 
Ten years ago, Israelis thought they would introduce agriculture technology and other Israeli know-how to China, Albin told the Post. Now, when China is moving from a “Made in China” to a “Created in China” mindset, Israeli innovation is in demand. “China today is a technological powerhouse which leads the world in several aspects,” he said, “such as electric cars or the Tik-Tok app – or anything else you care to name.” 
The Chinese are very interested in assimilating the Israeli skills of innovation, which had been the focus of several delegations before COVID-19 struck, he pointed out. “Earlier, we were all under the impression that the Chinese won’t be able to close a deal with Israelis unless they hop on a flight to China,” he said.
This has to to with cultural norms. Chinese business people appreciate the chance to meet people up close before money is exchanged – and there is an expectation to drink together when a good deal has been struck.
“But now, we help both sides to come ready to a virtual meeting – and many good things are happening,” Albin said. 
For Albin, it’s important to remember that when a Chinese businessman says “we will invest” he also means in most cases “when you move to China” – something that an Israeli negotiator might be unaware of due to the different cultural expectations both parties bring to the table.   
“We see an explosion of interest in renewable energy, medical technology and health services with some Israeli companies given special, fast-lane issued permits to begin work in China,” he said. These deals are still under wraps, but he hopes to be able to share them with the public soon. 
“Airlines might be down,” Albin told the Post, “but luckily, we’re here on the ground helping both economies connect and grow.” 


Tags China economy