The chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, Zhang Dejiang, arrived on a state visit to Israel on Tuesday and met with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and President Reuven Rivlin. Dejiang is the highest-ranking Chinese leader to visit Israel since President Jiang Zemin visited in 2000.
Dejiang and Edelstein signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pledging to strengthen cooperation between their parliaments on a variety of issues and to share knowledge in fields such as legislation and the environment. Edelstein initiated the MOU during a visit to Beijing in May.
“China’s involvement and interest in the Middle East and in Israel in particular has been gradually growing and has reached new heights this year, both politically and economically,” Michal Sarig-Kaduri, director of programs and strategic partnerships at the Jerusalem-based Israel-Asia Center, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “There have been a high number of similar official visits, such as the visit by Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong earlier this year.”
“The bilateral relations between our two nations has expanded significantly since the outset of our diplomatic ties. Our friendship has grown stronger in a variety of fields over the last few years,” said Dejiang. “I am confident in our nations’ friendship and in the cooperation of our governments.”
Edelstein told his Chinese counterpart that his visit and the signing of the MOU served as evidence of the strong ties between the countries. “Despite the difference in geographic location, culture, and of course the size of populations, both countries share a deep commitment to their thousands of years of history and tradition,” Edelstein claimed. He cited the increasing cooperation between Israel and China in innovation, environment, and renewable energy.
“Israel is an innovation and technology superpower, and China has a very large market, hence the two countries have a lot to offer each other,” Dejiang replied.
Sarig-Kaduri explained China’s increased interest in Israeli innovation and technology as being “reflected in the launch this year of the Kuang-Chi GCI Fund and Incubator, the first Chinese fund of its kind, which combines investment in early-to-mid-stage Israeli companies, and the opening of TechCode, China’s first accelerator in Israel, launched by Israel-Asia Leaders Fellowship alum Holo Zheng.”
Dejiang also briefly addressed the political situation in Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that he was under the impression that both the Israeli and Palestinian sides are not engaged in a genuine effort to resolve the conflict. “China understands Israel’s security concerns yet we hope at the same time that Israel can prove that it is committed to peace,” Dejiang remarked.
“China’s political and economic interest in Israel brings opportunities as well as challenges to Israel,” Sarig-Kaduri contended. “Both countries need to formulate a coherent mutual policy in order to seize the opportunities available.”
Michael Bachner contributed to this report.