JERUSALEM, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Chinese-Israeli relations have witnessed healthy and stable development in recent years as a result of joint efforts by both sides, with notable achievements recorded in various fields, Chinese Ambassador to Israel Zhan Yongxin told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Israel is a key country in the Middle East and China attaches great importance to the development of Chinese-Israeli relations, Zhan said, adding that the exchanges of high-level visits since 2013 have injected a strong impetus into the development of bilateral ties.
The two countries made steady progress in building mechanisms for bilateral cooperation, such as the establishment of the inter-governmental economic and technological cooperation mechanism and the joint committee on innovation cooperation, thus providing a guarantee for the expansion of their pragmatic cooperation, he said.
Noting that the exchanges between China's National People's Congress (NPC) and Israel's parliament Knesset are a major component of the political relations between the two countries, Zhan predicted that the upcoming visit to Israel by Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the NPC's Standing Committee, will certainly increase mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation, expand people-to-people friendship and push forward the development of bilateral ties in an all-round way.
Zhang, who will visit Israel and Palestine from Sept. 19 to 22, will be the highest ranking Chinese leader to visit Israel since April 2000. During his stay in Israel, he is scheduled to hold separate talks with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and meet with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on legislation practices by the legislatures of the two countries.
Recent years have witnessed constant growth of bilateral trade, with China becoming Israel's largest trading partner in Asia and the third largest in the world, only after the United States and Europe, the Chinese ambassador said, revealing that China and Israel will soon start their first round of free trade talks.
While the global economy slowed down and the total volume of China's imports and exports decreased slightly in 2015, trade between China and Israel bucked the trend by growing 5 percent to 11.4 billion U.S. dollars, according to Zhan.
Chinese investment in Israel maintained a robust upward trend, particularly in food, chemical and high-tech sectors, with the aggregated investment exceeding 6 billion dollars by the end of last year. Chinese enterprises won 1.86 billion dollars worth of infrastructure contracts in Israel last year.
China and Israel have signed a series of cooperation agreements, including a three-year action plan on bilateral innovation cooperation, launched an innovation park in Changzhou city in eastern China, and conducted fruitful cooperation in various fields such as the management of water resources as well as nano technology and biomedicine.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong and Netanyahu co-chaired the second meeting of the China-Israel innovation cooperation joint committee in Jerusalem in March 2016, which further broadened the practical cooperation between the two countries, Zhan noted.
Zhan also highlighted some major steps taken by China and Israel to boost their people-to-people exchanges, such as the signing of a 10-year multiple entry visa deal in March and the launching of a direct flight route between Beijing and Israel's Tel Aviv city by China's Hainan Airlines in April.
Figures from the Israeli Tourism Ministry showed that the number of Chinese tourists to Israel jumped 53 percent year-on-year in the first half of this year. In 2015, more than 47,000 Chinese tourists travelled to Israel, an increase of 43 percent over 2014.
In the meantime, Zhan said, more and more Israelis started to learn Chinese, both Tel Aviv University and Hebrew University have Confucius Institute, and there are currently around 200 Israeli primary and secondary schools offering Chinese language courses.
China and Israel will mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations next year, he said, expressing the hope that the two countries will seize this opportunity to push their relations to a new height.