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Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at China-Israel Innovation Conference.(Photo by: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Israel, China's Yunnan province deepen ties with bilateral agreements
“We believe this [is] a platform for real friendship and we have provided good opportunities for people from different sectors in Israel to enhance further cooperation.”
Business ties between Israel and China took another step forward as several high-level bilateral collaboration agreements were signed at the fourth annual China Yunnan-Israel Innovation Cooperation Forum on Thursday.

One week after the business-oriented visit of Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, a high-level business delegation from China’s southwestern Yunnan province including Vice Governor Zong Guoying arrived in the country to deepen relations with Israel’s innovation scene.

“We believe distance does not hinder friendship,” Zong told the forum. “We believe this [is] a platform for real friendship and we have provided good opportunities for people from different sectors in Israel to enhance further cooperation.”

Zong said that in order to implement collaboration plans signed by Wang and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, Yunnan would focus on deepening cooperation in the fields of technology, trade and agriculture.

Among the agreements concluded at the forum, Yunnan Investment Holdings Group (YIG), which has assets worth approximately $40 billion, inked deals with Israel Chemicals and leading IT company Aman Group.

“In recent years, bilateral ties between China and Israel have developed very healthily and we have expanded our pragmatic cooperation,” Ambassador of China to Israel Zhan Yongxin said. “Universities, research institutions and enterprises have created an innovation ecosystem in Israel. China is now trying to implement an innovation-driven strategy and trying to create an atmosphere for mass innovation. We can strongly complement each other,” he added.

The ethnically diverse Yunnan province, home to approximately 47 million residents, is rich in natural resources and borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. With a significant 9.5% growth in GDP last year, the third among all Chinese provinces, Yunnan’s growing economy can provide lucrative opportunities to foreign companies offering innovative solutions.

Netanyahu revealed last week that he is pushing to finalize a free trade agreement between the two countries. The People’s Republic is now Israel’s second largest trade partner worldwide today, with bilateral trade reaching more than $10 billion in 2017.

“Israel sees China as a very important rising power and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cherishes the stronger relations between the countries,” MK Amir Ohana (Likud) told The Jerusalem Post. “We would like to have more and more relations with China as it will benefit both sides. That is exactly what we are doing here at this forum,” he said.

Aman Group’s collaboration with YIG in various fields, including blockchain, fintech and big data, is estimated to be worth dozens of millions of dollars. Blockchain has been targeted by YIG as a priority technology to be implemented in projects across China, notably in finance, logistics and agriculture.

“China as a whole wants to invest a lot in technology. They understand the future is about technology and how it is going to help this huge market to modernize and to do everything better,” Aman Group CEO Ben Pasternak told the Post.

According to an IVC Research Center report obtained by Globes earlier this week, Chinese investors have been involved in 12% of Israeli start-up financing rounds so far this year, a significant increase from 2015-2017 where that number was only around 7.5-9%.

In 2018, 33% of financing agreements over $20m. were involved in Chinese funding. This is nearly double the amount from 2015, which hovered around 17%.
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