Top Chinese official here

China's Politburo member Liu Yunshan and 22-member delegation want to strengthen ties with Israel.

Liu Yunshan, a member of China's Politburo and the highest ranking Chinese visitor to Israel other than former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, arrived in Israel on Saturday night at the head of a 22-member delegation interested in strengthening ties between the two countries at all levels. The delegation, which is to remain in Israel until December 3, is scheduled to meet with the leaders of all major political parties running in the February general elections. The group will also meet with President Shimon Peres, who is also the founding president of the Council for the Promotion of Israel-China Relations. At a Jerusalem luncheon hosted in honor of the delegation by the CPICR on Sunday, Liu expressed his condolences with regard to the brutal slaughter by terrorists of Israeli nationals in Mumbai. Liu acknowledged that terrorism was a challenge that must be confronted by the whole world. He also congratulated Israel on its 60th anniversary and said that the Peoples Republic of China would be celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2009. Warmly greeted and toasted in Chinese by Zev Sufott, who heads the CPICR and was Israel's first ambassador to China, Liu, who is in Israel for the first time, responded that his delegation had felt the warmth of the Israeli welcome from the moment they had set foot on Israeli soil. The luncheon was also attended by two other ambassadors to China - incumbent Amos Nadai and Yitzhak Shelef, the latter having accompanied Jiang Zemin during his April, 2000 state visit to Israel. Among the places to which the Chinese President had been taken was a kibbutz, which he had pronounced "authentic Communism." After touring Yad Vashem in the morning, Liu described the experience as extremely moving and said that he felt proud that China had been able to provide a haven for thousands of Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Sufott asked Liu how China had been affected by the global economic crisis and how it planned to cope. Liu said exports had been hit hard, and that to keep the economy stable until times improved, the focus would be on stimulating domestic production and consumption. Nadai told The Jerusalem Post that Liu was one of the 24 most important decision makers in China and would be reporting from Israel to China's highest political echelons. "When someone of Liu's status comes to Israel," said Nadai, "it gives cause for hope that it will lead to visits of even higher ranking Chinese dignitaries."