Israel to Finance Initiative to Foster ‘Better Understanding’ of Chinese Markets to Further Bolster Economic Cooperation
The Israeli government announced the financing of a new initiative to further bolster economic ties with China, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Sunday.
According to the report, a special program for graduates of Far East and/or Chinese-language studies is being launched at the start of 2017, with an annual budget of approximately NIS 3 million ($800,000). It will be headed by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, in coordination with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China’s central planning agency. Its goal, according to Prime Minister’s Office director-general Eli Groner, is to foster a better understanding of the Chinese market within the Israeli business sector.
During Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Groner — who is in charge of cultivating economic ties between Israel and China — told the ministers that, as someone who came to the PMO from the private sector, he believes that governments shouldn’t intervene in the free market. However, he said, “In China, the government is heavily involved in the economy, and they expect us to behave in a similar manner.” In other words, he explained, “Without a parallel push from our government, relations [with the People’s Republic] will not flourish as anticipated.”
Groner’s words came on the heels of the arrival in Israel last week of a delegation from Beijing, made up of more than 200 government officials and business executives. Among these was NDRC Vice Chairman Wang Xiaotao, who heads the program that oversees his country’s economic development. During the trip, he and Groner signed 15 separate agreements. At the same time, 15 additional deals were signed between Israeli and Chinese businessmen.
Groner told nrg, “Israel has much to offer China, as China has much to offer Israel… [and] it is very important to …ensure that we and they are on the same wavelength, and that our interests become synchronized…”
Groner also said that bilateral tourism has been exploding.
“The government’s objective to bring 100,000 tourists per year from China by 2019 is exceeding expectations,” he said, “to the point that this might be achieved as early as 2017.”
According to Israeli news site Ynet, to meet this boon and accompanying increase in demand for Chinese-speaking tour guides, Israel’s Tourism Ministry is allocating NIS 700,000 ($184,000) in grant money for students of East Asia to take the official tour-guide course. So far, 12 students have applied, and each will receive NIS 15,000.
According to the Ynet report, Incoming Tour Operators Association CEO Yossi Fattal has been bemoaning what he considers an unwanted consequence of the welcome rise in Chinese visitors to the Jewish state — the phenomenon of Chinese construction workers joining groups and acting as guides. Fattal claims that their lack of licencing, knowledge and experience “is causing us to ruin the tourism industry with our own hands.”
Today, according to Tour Guide Association chairman Benny Kfir, there are some 100 Chinese-speaking tour guides, and at least another 150 are needed to handle the volume of tourists from the People’s Republic.
As was reported in The Algemeiner in May, China’s Hainan Airlines began operating a direct Beijing-Tel Aviv route, joining Israeli airline El Al as one of the only two airlines doing so.
However, as Ynet reported last month, Israeli passengers on a Hainan Airlines flight to Tel Aviv were shocked to see their country listed as “Palestinian Territories” on the plane’s map.