'Chinese see Israel as a partner who can help in innovation'

Senior Chinese delegation arrives to take part in initiative aimed at promoting growth in bilateral business, tourism ties.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and China’s Vice Premier Liu Yandong sign an agreement in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and China’s Vice Premier Liu Yandong sign an agreement in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel and China are set to sign an agreement Tuesday instituting a 10-year, multi-visit visa that will facilitate business and tourist travel between the two countries.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will sign the agreement with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, who is heading an 80-member delegation taking part in the second annual Israel-China Committee for Cooperation in Innovation.
The previous meeting, which is the annual equivalent of the government- to-government confabs Israel holds with countries such as Germany, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria, was held in Beijing in January 2015.
The annual meetings underline the growth in ties between Israel and China.
Trade in 2015 reached more than $9 billion, double the amount in 2007. In addition, about 25% of foreign investment in Israel’s high tech sector now comes from China or Hong Kong.
Hagai Shagrir, director of the Foreign Ministry’s Northeast Asia department, said Liu is one of four vice premiers in China, and the highest ranking woman in the Beijing government. Her portfolio includes innovation, technology, education and health.
Liu was responsible for innovation being at the top of the agenda of China’s recently unveiled 13th five-year plan, he said.
“The Chinese see Israel as a partner who can help in innovation, so that is a connection that is very important,” Shagrir said. Explaining the importance of these types of meetings, he said that the way to move things forward with China is through these types of “institutionalized platforms.”
Shagrir said that the agreement allowing for a 10-year, multi-entry visa will be the first such arrangement Israel has with another country, and the third for China, which already has decade-long, multi-entry arrangements with the US and Canada.
“When a Chinese tourist or businessman looks where to travel, he looks for two things: where it is easiest in terms of visas, and if there are direct flights with a Chinese airline,” Shagrir said.
The new visa regime will make travel much easier. In another three weeks, China’s Hainan Airlines will open a direct line from Beijing to Tel Aviv. Hainan will fly to Israel three times a week, augmenting El AL, which already has three direct flights a week to Beijing.
In addition to the visa treaty, a number of other agreements are also to be signed. One will substantially increase the number of scholarships for Chinese students studying here, a program that could bring hundreds of Chinese to learn at Israel’s higher education institutions.
Another agreement governs the establishment of Israeli innovation centers in China in the spheres of agriculture, public health, education and entrepreneurship. The value added for Israel as a result of these centers is that they will expose the Chinese working in these fields to Israeli technology and know-how that they otherwise might not have known about.
Another agreement will establish a program to bring 1,000 young Chinese leaders over the next three years from government, the Communist party, businesses and think tanks to Israel on seven to 10-day programs to expose them to the country.
Liu, who was last in Israel in 2014, will be accompanied by three ministers, nine deputy ministers and 14 university heads. She is arriving from Egypt, and will also visit Ramallah during her trip here.