Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan arrived in Israel on Monday to kick off a four-day visit that includes meetings with Israeli government leaders and prominent figures in the tech and innovation industry. Qishan is joined by a Chinese ministerial delegation to head the fourth China-Israel Innovation Committee and to inaugurate the Israeli Innovation Center at the Peres Center for Peace And Innovation, as well as attend the Prime Minister’s Israeli Innovation Summit 2018, on Thursday.
Netanyahu welcomed Qishan Monday night, saying in a statement that his arrival was “the most important visit by a Chinese leader in the last 18 years,” and a “sign of our growing friendship.” Qishan is the highest-ranking Chinese official to visit Israel in over a decade, preceded by former Chinese president Jiang Zemin in 2000.
“The fact that the Vice President of China came to Israel at my invitation for the Prime Minister’s Innovation Conference [Summit] is a tremendous compliment to Israel and a reflection of the growing ties between China and Israel,” he said.
The two held a working dinner also attended by Israeli Economy and Industry Minister Eli Cohen, National Economic Council Chairman Avi Simhon, Israeli Ambassador to China Zvi Hefetz, Chinese Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng, Vice Minister of Commerce Qian Keming, Chinese Ambassador to Israel Zhan Yongxin, and other senior officials from both sides.
Alibaba Founder Jack Ma is also part of Qishan’s entourage, and is set to speak at the Innovation Summit on Thursday. This is Ma’s second trip to Israel in less than a year. In May, he toured global VC firm Jerusalem Venture Partners, visited the offices of Mobileye, the Jerusalem-based company acquired by Intel for $15.3 billion, and spoke to Tel Aviv University students, where he also received an honorary doctorate. Israel is the site of one of eight global R&D centers for Alibaba, which is invested in a number of Israeli startups.
On Tuesday, Qishan is set to travel to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. On Wednesday, Qishan and Netanyahu will chair the fourth meeting of the Israel-China Innovation Committee, which convenes annually in Jerusalem and Beijing, alternatively, to advance cooperation and discuss joint projects.
The Prime Minister’s Office said eight agreements are due to be signed at the committee event in science and technology, life sciences, innovation, digital health, and agriculture.
In July, Israeli Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu was considering forming a new government mechanism to oversee Chinese investment in Israel, and prevent takeovers of large Israeli corporations.
There have been a number of high-profile deals over the years, notably in 2014 when China’s Bright Food Group Co Ltd bought a controlling share of Israel’s largest food company, Tnuva, and in 2016 when Fosun International acquired Dead Sea skincare products company Ahava, for a reported $77 million.
A year earlier, Fosun International nearly bought a majority holding in a major Israeli insurance company, Phoenix Insurance but the deal fell through. The scrapped agreement underlined a major push by China-linked companies to acquire or buy controlling shares in the Israeli insurance market, efforts blocked by Israel.
A number of Chinese companies are also involved in ongoing major transportation and infrastructure projects in Israel.