Spotlight: China-Israel innovation cooperation intensifies amid upcoming tech summit

Source: Xinhua| 2018-10-22 18:29:07|Editor: Xiang Bo
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by Keren Setton, Xinhua writer Chen Wenxian

JERUSALEM, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Innovation cooperation between China and Israel has enjoyed fast and fruitful development with continuous efforts of both governments, as Israel is expecting the fourth meeting of the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation.

Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan on Monday kicked off an official visit to Israel, during which he will attend the meeting.

China and Israel established the mechanism of the joint committee in 2014 with the aim to promote innovation cooperation in various fields. In March 2017, the two countries established an innovative comprehensive partnership during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to China.

Israel is attracting more investment from China with a total amount of over 7 billion U.S. dollars. Several Chinese companies have also built research and development centers in Israel, including Huawei, Xiaomi and Lenovo.

"The ultimate measure of Chinese investment in Israel will be when Chinese companies begin establishing development, sales and manufacturing hubs in Israel," said Dorian Barak, CEO of Indigo Global, a private equity investor and fund manager.

"An investment in an Israeli start-up pales in value to a large Chinese conglomerate establishing a major Israel presence -- hiring locals, paying local taxes and exporting from here," Barak said.

According to Start-up National Central, a nonprofit organization that surveys Israel's high-tech and innovation industry, Israel has more than 6,000 start-ups, and multi-national companies have invested to build over 350 R&D centers in the country.

Growing Chinese investment in artificial intelligence (AI), computer vision and sophisticated manufacturing comes hand in hand with Israeli expertise in those fields.

Moreover, Israel's innovative solutions in agriculture technology are also a perfect fit for China, said Doron Ella, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, pointing to China's needs for "food and water security because of its big and growing population."

"Israel has a strong impetus to do business in China," Barak told Xinhua. "The Israeli market is small, so its start-ups are gearing towards the global market from the get-go."

China is now Israel's largest trading partner in Asia and the third largest across the world, with the bilateral trade volume in 2017 growing to over 13 billion dollars, about 260 times the volume back in 1992.

The China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation has proven fruitful, said Alexander B. Pevzner, founding director of the Chinese Media Center in Israel. "The mechanism has successfully pushed the development of a lot of innovation cooperation projects of the two countries."

Pevzner said he expected more leading Chinese companies to make investments and build R&D centers or subsidiary companies in Israel.

The continuous innovation cooperation has also pushed forward the bilateral cooperation in the aviation sector, which encourages tourism and business flows.

An aviation network is taking shape between the two countries, with regular direct flights operating between Tel Aviv and Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Hong Kong, linking Israel with major cities in the north, south, east and west of China.

In 2017, a total of 139,000 Chinese people visited Israel, three times as many as in 2015, and the number of visitors from Israel reached 52,000, according to data from Chinese embassy in Israel.

"Israelis and Chinese are more familiar with each other these days, so the countries don't see an enigma in each other anymore," Ella said.

There are breakthroughs in basic scientific research cooperation and more joint research platforms have emerged, as leading universities and research institutes from China and Israel have conducted more cooperation.

"More Chinese students come to study in Israel ... and there is growing academic cooperation between the two countries," Ella said.

"Israel is far ahead of any other country ... in recognizing the importance of Chinese investment and cultivating commercial ties inside China," said Barak. "The world economy is shifting eastward."