China and Israel - the best is yet to come

I have been deeply impressed by Israelis' growing interest in China.

chinese ambassador 88 (photo credit: )
chinese ambassador 88
(photo credit: )
January 2007 marks the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relationship between China and Israel. But we have already begun to mark the occasion. On Tuesday evening, I held a reception at my residence in the presence of Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog. They were joined by members of Israel's business community, diplomats, television personalities as well as many of my own colleagues from the Chinese embassy. During my two and a half years in Israel - and I am happy to report my tour has just been extended for at least another year - I have been deeply impressed by Israelis' growing interest in China. I have been "forced" to become a speechmaker thanks to the enthusiasm of many Israelis to get to know China. Wherever I go, be it university, enterprise, municipality or kibbutz, people always keep me talking until my voice becomes hoarse. Basically, I think China attracts so much attention because of the tremendous changes that have taken place in less than 30 years, made possible by our reform and openingup policies. Indeed, from 1978 to 2005, China's GDP increased by 11 times, from $200 billion to $2,200b. Our GDP per capita increased from $220 to $1,700. Last year, China's foreign trade amounted to $1.4 trillion. As of last February, China's foreign reserves stood at $850b. China has succeeded in feeding its 1.3 billion population, relieving over 200 million people from poverty, and extending a nine-year compulsory education system to almost every corner of the country. The Chinese government provides assistance to more than 60 million people with disabilities and offers equal development opportunities to all the country's 56 ethnic groups. China now enjoys social stability. And the Chinese people are pursuing prosperity in peace. MORE SIGNIFICANTLY, China is exploring and pursuing a path of peaceful development, the essence of which is that China seeks to develop itself by securing a peaceful international environment, while at the same time promoting world peace through its own development. At the same time, we remain open to the world. China conducts exchanges and cooperation with other countries on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, in order to achieve a win-win situation and common development. China's development is a development of peace, open cooperation and harmony in nature. Despite all China has achieved, we remain a developing country facing many challenges. Big population, low productivity and unbalanced regional development are the basic facts of China's current situation. China still ranks behind the 100th place in terms of per-capita GDP. And 23.65 million of our rural population still live in poverty. China needs to provide jobs for close to 24 million people every year. And over 100 million rural labor force in surplus needs to be transferred to other sectors. China still needs a long time, unremitting efforts and scientific thinking to develop before it achieves modernization. Therefore, the National People's Congress earlier this year approved "The 11th Five-Year Plan" of the national economic and social development for 2006-2010. By firmly pursuing the path of peaceful development and concentrating on construction and development, China is not only growing in strength but also creating more opportunities for the whole world. And I think China and Israel are definitely able to build such a model of cooperating hand in hand while achieving mutual prosperity. BOTH CHINESE and Jewish civilizations are brilliant and have long histories. The friendship between Chinese and Jewish peoples has lasted from generation to generation and been constantly renewed. In the past 14 years since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relationship, our two countries have developed ties in political, economic, military, scientific, educational and cultural fields. Bilateral trade increased from $50 million in 1992 to $3 billion in 2005. The number of Israeli FDI programs in China reached 204. At least 800 Israeli companies are doing business in China. And recently more and more venture capital has been aimed at the Chinese market. We have various cooperative forms in the agriculture area, such as joint research and development, import of equipment, training and demonstration farms. Our efforts to learn from Israel bore sweet fruits. Mashav programs - coordinated by Israel's Foreign Ministry - have cumulatively helped train more than 4,000 specialized personnel. There have been 1,000 Chinese students coming to study in Israel, and nearly 400 Israeli students have learned in China. The content and variety of our cultural exchanges have been extended, with new energies injected by the participation of commercial and nongovernmental groups in this field. In 2005, our embassy issued 37,000 one-entry or multiple-entry visas for Israelis, which is 2.5 times the number in 2001. There are seven pairs of sister cities between China and Israel, and three new pairs are on their way. ISRAEL HAS a developed economy and advanced technologies, whereas China has rich human resource, a huge market and limitless potential for development. Our two economies are highly complementary, which is the firmest base and strongest motivation to develop mutually beneficial cooperation in this era of globalization. It is because of discerning such advantages, the top leaders from our two countries both placed high expectations on bilateral cooperation. During his visit to Israel in December 2004, Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan proposed that Sino-Israeli trade volume should reach $5b. by 2008. And just two months ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told me once again that China's development is not a threat but Israel's opportunity, that Israel welcomes Chinese merchandise and continues to promote the export of Israeli hi-tech products to China. This consensus at the top level of the leadership proves that the bilateral relationship is becoming more mature and substantial. LOOKING TO the future, I would like to make some recommendations. • Firstly, during "The 11th Five-Year Plan," China will pay most attention on agriculture, work hard to upgrade the science, technology and education, and strive to build a resource conservation and environmentally friendly society. Since Israel has management expertise and commercialized mechanism in agriculture, information technology, biological technology, new material and new energy, Israel will find promising business opportunities in China in the relative fields. • Secondly, there are huge projects related to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, which will bring unique opportunities for Israeli communication, security, software and electronic companies. • Thirdly, the Chinese government is carrying out the strategies of "Grand Development of Western China" and "Strengthening the Central China." Israel has already involved in the construction of central and western China and had a good basis for further cooperation. I believe more and better cooperation can be expected if both sides fully utilize the preferential policies of the Chinese government. The entrepreneur spirit and business talent of the Jewish people are well acknowledged all over China. I therefore firmly believe that for Israelis the Chinese market is just like the wide sea for fish to leap or the vast sky for birds to fly. And I am sure we will receive more and more good news of Sino-Israeli cooperation. CHINESE ARE peace-loving people ever since ancient times and the core of Chinese culture is cherishing peace and harmony. Chinese people believe that peace, development and cooperation is the irreversible trend of our times. The Chinese government unswervingly pursues an independent foreign policy of peace, which focuses on actively pushing for a better world system that is fair and rational, earnestly implementing the new approach to development centered on equality and mutual benefit, promoting the new security concept featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation, and advocating a new concept of inter-civilization cooperation that features respect for diversity. China sincerely hopes that Jewish and Arab nations will coexist peacefully. We oppose terrorism of all forms and support all proposals and mediation efforts helpful for relieving the tense situation in the Middle East. And China will continue to make constructive contribution in pushing forward the Middle East peace process. The writer is the ambassador of China to Israel.