Despite COVID-19, Israeli Innovation Day held in Nanjing

Citing ‘Start-Up Nation’ as a book that shaped how Chinese decision-makers view Israel, Prof. Xu Xin says Israel inspired China from the start of the 20th Century.

The city of Nanjing, China (photo credit: Courtesy)
The city of Nanjing, China
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The China-Israel Innovation Center will hold a conference promoting global innovative culture on Thursday at the Jiangning Development Zone (JDZ) in Nanjing as part of the city’s TechWeek.
Due to COVID-19, Economy Minister Amir Peretz, Weizmann Institute of Science president Alon Chen and Tel Aviv University president Ariel Porat will not be able to attend in person, but they will send pretaped greetings to the Israelis and Chinese investors, academics and hi-tech professionals present.
Head of the Foreign Trade Administration in the Economy Ministry Ohad Cohen said China is currently Israel's second largest trade partner, with roughly US 14 billion worth of trade in 2019. 
"One third of Israeli imports to Asia are directed to china," he said.
Noting that China is currently transforming its economy and is becoming a "technological superpower", he pointed out that as "we are a world power in innovation" the potential in Chinese-Israeli cooperation is "extremely beneficial" for both nations. 

Shengjing Peakview Capital is expected to launch its partnership with EcoMotion on Thursday. Jointly created by the Economy Ministry, the National Plan to Promote Smart Transportation and the Israeli Institute of Innovation, EcoMotion connects roughly 600 Israeli start-up firms that offer various transportation solutions. Shengjing senior partner Sherrie Wong told The Jerusalem Post that, thanks to the JDZ, Israeli firms will now have a starting point on their journey into China.
“We think they have a great potential in the Chinese market,” she said, “which is why we make things happen.” So far, Shengjing has invested $80 million in Israeli companies.
When asked about possible Chinese-Israeli partnerships to combat COVID-19, she mentioned DiaCardio – now known as DiA Imaging Analysis, which was selected by her firm to represent Israeli innovation in China in 2015 – as an example of how innovative mapping of the human heart can be used to save lives in times of crisis.
In addition to hi-tech, academic relations between the two countries are expected to grow, as the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology intends to sign a cooperation agreement with Tsinghua University’s AI Center and the Nanjing Tsingzhan AI Center.
Tsinghua University intends to announce a partnership with the Weizmann Institute of Science, with a focus on machine learning.
What is behind China’s deep admiration for Israel? Prof. Xu Xin, author of the 2003 book The Jews of Kaifeng, claims that Jews had been living in China for a thousand years, even if most Chinese were unaware of their presence.
Professor Xu Xin, author of the 2003 book "The Jews of Kaifeng"  (Courtesy)Professor Xu Xin, author of the 2003 book "The Jews of Kaifeng" (Courtesy)
Pointing to the inspiration that important Chinese leaders found in the history of the Jews, among them China’s first president, Sun Yat-Sen, Xu told the Post that the Chinese sympathized with the Jews for decades.
The Chinese “should learn from the Jews, who never forgot their country,” the former president said.
As China was oppressed by colonial powers, many found similarities between their situation and that endured by the Jews in Russia and other countries.
Yiddish-language novels, translated into Chinese, served as an example that it would be possible to modernize Chinese literature. The creation of the State of Israel in 1948 was widely seen in China as the feat of a people overcoming nearly impossible odds.
In our times, Xu told the Post, the Chinese edition of Start-Up Nation was read by every Chinese official he met.
He will lead a panel with YChina founder Yael Einav Winehouse and Xinergy CEO Niv Schwartz about Chinese and Israeli entrepreneurial cultures.
“In premodern Chinese culture,” he said, “one studied to pass exams and get a government job,” like the famed Mandarins, for example. “In Jewish culture, people study because it is a mitzvah: it is something you do for yourself even if there is no practical reason to do so.”
China, with its traditional symbol being the dragon, and Israel – its national bird being the hoopoe – are very different. But “if China and Israel work together,” Shengjing’s Wong said, “it will improve the whole world.”