China VP visit highlights strong growth of Sino-Israeli relations

By George N. Tzogopoulos
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 24, 2018
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The file photo shows the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa, north Israel. [Photo/Xinhua]

One of the most important advantages of the Belt and Road Initiative is in bringing together neighboring countries irrespective of their religion, culture or governance model. 

This is occurring even in regions traditionally marked by turmoil and volatility, where relationships between states are strained, conflicts frequent and terrorist acts no longer constitute news. The Middle East is a characteristic example and that is where Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan currently finds himself, starting with Israel. 

Most international references to Israel are related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. China's position on this subject in support of the Palestinian people is clear and regularly reiterated at the UN level. However, China also believes politics should not prevent it from developing a harmonious cooperation with Israel. 

The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992, with much evident progress since. While the bilateral trade volume was only US$50 million in 1992, it was close to US$16 billion in 2017 (if Hong Kong is included). 

Figures from the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics suggest more growth in 2018. From January until September, the bilateral trade volume (including Hong Kong) amounted to US$14.1 billion, in comparison to US$12.1 billion in the same period in 2017.

China is also greatly interested in Israeli innovation, as the latter is widely known as an industrial start-up nation. President Xi Jinping's vision is to develop his country into a world leader in science and technology as it strives for prosperity and rejuvenation. Foreign experience and know-how are thus often needed. 

To foster collaboration the two countries established a joint committee on innovation in 2014, an important platform facilitating communication between ministries, governmental agencies, universities and research centers. The committee has been convened three times: January 2015 in Beijing, March 2016 in Jerusalem and March 2017 in Beijing. Vice President Wang Qishan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will co-chair the fourth session at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Against this backdrop, the two sides already have produced fruitful results. Many examples can be cited. Located in Neixiang County, central China's Henan Province, the Sino-Israeli agriculture high-tech demonstration park annually produces thousands of kilograms of organic products with the use of smart technologies.  

Meanwhile, China's bike-sharing firm Mobike successfully operates in the Tel Aviv area. Furthermore, Israeli start-up HQL Pharmaceuticals partners China's Longthera Pharmaceuticals to conduct scientific research and jointly design a novel anti-cancer agent that is a real breakthrough.

Additionally, as long as China continues its opening-up and reform process, it is opening its doors to Israeli companies. Last July, representatives from more than 2,000 Chinese and Israeli companies attended the 4th China-Israel Investment Summit in Zhuhai, Guangdong Province, where a technology innovation IP trading platform was launched. The Sino-Israeli Changzhou Innovation Park is another initiative helping Israeli enterprises to enjoy a range of services in the country giving them easier access to its market.

Beyond innovation, Chinese companies are involved in important infrastructure works in Israel. China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) participated in the construction of the Carmel series of road tunnels in Haifa. And, China Railway Tunnel Group (CRTG) has won a bid to help build the first light rail system in the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area. 

Last year, China and Israel signed another construction agreement helping the latter solve its housing crisis. Chinese workers will help Israel reach its target of building 60,000 housing units a year. 

The engagement of Chinese companies in Israel also concerns the construction or management of ports. Specifically, China Harbors Pan Mediterranean Engineering Company (PMEC) was chosen to construct the new port of Ashdod on the Mediterranean in 2014. One year later, Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) won a tender to run Haifa Bay port for 25 years beginning in 2021. 

The continuous improvement of Sino-Israeli relations has resulted in the launch of new flight services linking the two countries. Only a few weeks ago, for instance, Sichuan Airlines decided to start connecting Chengdu with Tel Aviv, a further boon to promote people-to-people exchanges. In 2017 Israel welcomed over 110,000 Chinese visitors, up 45 percent year on year. The 2016 bilateral agreement for a ten-year multiple entry visa certainly boosts tourism. 

Thus, prospects are good for an enhanced Sino-Israeli partnership. The visit of Vice President Wang Qishan, therefore, sends another clear message on the importance of win-win cooperation.

George N. Tzogopoulos is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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