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China and Middle East embrace new opportunities to broaden cooperation


Source: Global Times    Published: 2018-10-22

China and the Middle East will embrace new opportunities to broaden economic and high-tech cooperation, Chinese commentators predicted after Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan started his four-country tour of the Middle East on Monday.

Wang began his visit to Israel, Palestine, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday, which will last until October 30, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang announced at a routine press briefing on Thursday.

Wang's visit is at the invitation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Palestinian government, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli and the UAE government, according to Lu.

During Wang's stay in Israel, he will co-chair the fourth meeting of the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation (JCIC) with Netanyahu, Lu said.

"China's high-tech investment in Israel has grown in recent years because the two countries' cooperation in technological innovation is highly complementary," Zhu Weilie, a Middle East expert at the Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Monday.

The basic research level in Israel is higher than in China and the country emphasizes core-technology research and development, while China is adept in business-model innovation and has a huge market, so the combination of the two has promising potential, he noted.

The JCIC convenes annually, alternating between Beijing and Jerusalem. This year, various committee partners will deliver reports on the progress of the cooperation between the two countries, the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday.

The ministry said that this year's meeting will feature the signing of some 10 cooperation agreements and map out the next three years' action plan of the JCIC.

Under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China and Israel should encourage more technological exchanges and make each other's advantages complementary, so as to benefit the peoples of both countries, Zhu noted.

According to data from Israel-based research center IVC, Chinese investment in Israeli high-tech companies in 2017 totaled $596 million over 43 deals, compared with $232 million over 26 deals in 2013, Israeli newspaper Times of Israel reported in February.

Esteemed entourage

During his visit, Wang will be accompanied by a large business delegation, including Ma Yun (Jack Ma), co-founder and chairman of the Alibaba Group, one of China's largest e-commerce companies, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on October 8.

This visit also aims to expand trade cooperation between China and the four countries in the fields of technology, e-commerce and energy, said Zhu.

He noted that US unilateralism won't affect China's cooperation with these countries; on the contrary, their cooperation will deepen with the help of the BRI.

The BRI will be the catalyst to activate the partnership, and many Middle Eastern countries, such as Israel and Palestine, have shown a positive attitude toward the initiative, with many new programs getting off the ground, Hua Liming, a former Chinese ambassador to the UAE, told the Global Times.

Among the four countries, Israel is one of China's major trading partners in the Middle East, while China is Israel's largest trading partner in Asia and its third largest trading partner in the world, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

Trade between the UAE and China reached $41 billion in 2017, a 1.06 percent increase from the previous year. In 2017, Chinese visitors to the UAE surged to over 1 million, according to a separate report published by Xinhua in September.

Zhu said that with deepened cooperation between the countries, China has a bigger say in the region and a responsibility to push forward proposed solutions to unresolved controversial problems in the region, such as the Palestine-Israel issue and terrorism.

China always promotes using development as a solution to the region's decades-long turbulence, and by playing a constructive and peaceful role, China has replenished the hope for peace for this region, said Hua.

Hua Liming is the former Chinese ambassador to Iran, and currently a senior fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: Wang Qishan   Middle East   BRI   Hua Liming  

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