"A decade ago, very little was happening between our two countries. In the subsequent years, relations grew significantly on almost every front, from academic exchange and cooperation to scientific collaboration and joint research, from business investment to infrastructure development," said Carice Witte, founder & executive director of Sino-Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership.
by Xinhua writers Shang Hao, Lyu Yingxu, Wang Hao
JERUSALEM, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- Though 4,000 miles (about 6,437.4 km) away from each other, China and Israel, since establishing diplomatic relations in 1992, have seen bilateral cooperation developing and expanding to the great mutual benefit.
Especially in 2017, China and Israel announced the establishment of innovative comprehensive partnership, which opened a new chapter of their friendly cooperation.
From the Belt and Road cooperation to technology and innovation exchanges, over the years, China-Israel relations have achieved fruitful cooperation in various fields.
BRI PROMOTES COOPERATION
Busily and efficiently, the new port in northern Israeli city of Haifa, a transportation and industrial center of the country, deals with tons of cargo every day.
Inaugurated in September 2021, this port is expected to decrease import costs and present an economic boon for Israel, where most international trade is handled via maritime routes.
The new port is an automated container port constructed primarily by the China Shanghai International Port Group, which was franchised to run the new port for 25 years. With 1.7-billion-U.S.-dollar investment, the new port has an annual handling capacity of 1.86 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs).
"The new port opened a new gateway to the world," said Merav Michaeli, Israeli transportation and road safety minister, at the inauguration ceremony, adding that the new port will accelerate Israel's economic development, increase export and trade, bridge social gaps and lower prices.
Supported by the Israeli government, the Haifa new port becomes a microcosm of the win-win cooperation between China and Israel, under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), aiming at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
Data released by the Israeli Ministry of Transportation shows that the country is now investing 4-5 billion dollars each year to upgrade its transport infrastructure and is building airports, seaports, railroad tracks, roads and tunnels, which reflects the huge complementarity of the respective economic advantages between the two countries.
In recent years, Chinese companies are handling major infrastructure and transportation projects in Israel, including winning the tenders to build new ports in Haifa and southern Israeli city of Ashdod, as well as building a key section of the Tel Aviv light rail system.
Chinese companies and investment have brought tangible benefits to Israel. So far, over 30 Chinese enterprises are operating in Israel, creating around 10,000 jobs for Israel, figures from the Chinese embassy in Israel show.
"The Belt and Road Initiative is a vision that reflects the ability of people to connect and work together across the world, to build bridges for all peoples, and eventually a better future for all," said former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
INNOVATION AS BOOSTER
During the past 30 years, innovation has been playing one of the leading roles in promoting China-Israel relations, especially after the establishment of their innovative comprehensive partnership in 2017.
"Israel is widely regarded as the innovation hub of the world, but its economy size is limited, while China is a giant economy with significant manufacturing power, which makes Israel and China the perfect match and highly complementary," said Qiang Hao, general manager of the China-Israel (Shanghai) Innovation Park.
Also, as China is transforming the economy to focus quality-oriented development, innovation cooperation between China and Israel has started to span from modern agriculture to medical devices, from cybersecurity to smart cities.
Eying China's tremendous market, Israel is trying to form a long-term strategic relationship with the oriental country. Supported by the two governments, more and more Israeli start-up companies have obtained investment from China and accesses to its market.
China-Israel Changzhou Innovation Park, the first experimental zone for innovation cooperation established by the two governments and inaugurated in 2015, can be an example.
Located in east China's Jiangsu Province, the park provides physical proximity for Israeli firms to get funds and collaborate with Chinese companies in industrial research and development, becoming a prototype project for innovative cooperation between the two countries.
"By the end of 2021, the park has gathered 155 Israeli-owned and China-Israeli joint ventures and facilitated 40 China-Israel scientific and technological cooperation projects," said Chen Shunming, deputy director of the management office of the park.
Another milestone in scientific cooperation between the two countries is the China-Israel (Shanghai) Innovation Park inaugurated in 2019.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, some 70 companies were attracted to operate in the park with an outcome of some 200 intellectual property rights, according to Qiang, general manager of the park.
Focusing on design innovation, Israeli company GIAYO Studio began operating in the park in last August.
"I think we bring something new, new design, new experience and new product to our customers," said Roy Grinfield, founder of GIAYO Studio.
"I think China is amazing at the moment. There are so many opportunities here. We're currently recruiting and trying to grow the team, because we have a lot of requests from new clients. We have big plans for 2022," said Grinfield.
Like Chinese President Xi Jinping said during a phone conversation with his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, in November, "Innovation has become a highlight and booster of bilateral relations."
MORE FRUITFUL OUTCOMES EXPECTED
"A decade ago, very little was happening between our two countries. In the subsequent years, relations grew significantly on almost every front, from academic exchange and cooperation to scientific collaboration and joint research, from business investment to infrastructure development," said Carice Witte, founder & executive director of Sino-Israel Global Network & Academic Leadership, an Israeli policy organization that specializes on China-Israel relations.
Despite setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two countries have not stopped their efforts to enhance cooperation. Data from China Customs showed that bilateral trade in goods between China and Israel amounted to 20.4 billion dollars in 2021 from January to November, up 28.9 percent year-on-year.
Also, China and Israel are working on a bilateral free trade agreement, which will boost the economic cooperation and bring more benefits to people and businesses from both sides.
As the year of 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic ties, people from the two countries are looking forward to further cooperation in all areas for mutual benefit.
Yoav Kisch, member of Knesset, the Israeli parliament, described China as a growing player in the Middle East "without using military force at all, but only as of its strength in the economic and tech areas."
"I believe that Israel must develop a rational, wise, and close relationship with China, which is a great friend and a leading country with growing influence," said Kisch.
According to Chen, the China-Israel Changzhou Innovation Park will be expanded from five square kilometers to 72.8 square kilometers.
"We will build the park into a model of innovative comprehensive partnership between the two countries and help apply the innovation resources and technological achievements from Israel to Chinese industries," said Chen.
"I hope that the two countries will promote cooperation in innovation of life and health, and overcome the COVID-19 pandemic as soon as possible," said Qiang. He also hoped that the ending of the pandemic and China-Israel interaction and cooperation without COVID-19 limitations will bring bilateral ties "to a new level."
Dai Yuming, charge d'affaires ad interim at the embassy of China in Israel, made an analogy saying China's growth is like an express train heading to the future despite all odds.
"We welcome all countries, including Israel, to hop onto the train and get a share from China's growth dividends," said the Chinese diplomat.
(Xinhua reporters Wang Jingyuan, Yang Kai and Xu Xiaoqing in Shanghai, Chen Shengwei and Zhang Zhanpeng in Nanjing also contributed to the story.)
Produced by Xinhua Global Service ■