Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav will serve as a senior adviser to the mayor of the Chinese coastal metropolis of Shenzhen, after counterpart Xu Qin received approval for the appointment from Beijing.
Shenzhen, a coastal city of over 10.5 million adjacent to Hong Kong, sprang from a small fishing village in the late 1970s into one of China’s largest ports and one of the country’s high-tech and manufacturing powerhouses.
According to a report in the Hebrew daily Maariv on Wednesday, Yahav will serve as a consultant on developing Shenzhen through higher education and science based on Haifa’s model. The city’s website says that the long-term development goal for Shenzhen is to “be a pilot zone for a national comprehensive reform program,” “a national economic hub,” and a model city for China.
Yahav has served as mayor of Haifa, home of the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, since 2003. In 2012, Haifa and Shenzhen became sister cities.
His appointment to the task was “a great honor,” Haifa city hall said in a statement, considering Shenzhen sought “the mayor of a city of 300,000 residents to serve as an adviser to 17 million [sic] residents.”
“It’s an expression of great appreciation by the Chinese government, which we admire,” it said.
Rony Geven, a China analyst based in Tel Aviv, said that while the appointment may not necessarily be significant in terms of Yahav’s involvement in decision-making in Shenzhen, it is indicative of China’s appreciation for Israeli achievements in science and technology.
The announcement of Shenzhen-Haifa cooperation came amid strengthening economic and diplomatic ties between Jerusalem and Beijing. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Israel last month and said the two economies “are highly complementary, and the mutually beneficial cooperation between us enjoys a very bright future.”
Although bilateral trade was expected to be only around $8 billion in 2013 — up from $6.7 billion in 2010 — according to Foreign Ministry statistics Israel offers industrial giant China innovative advances in high-tech, agriculture, medicine and water.
“China has massive industrial and global reach. Israel has expertise in every area of high technology,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference with Wang. “And I think the combination could be very very beneficial to China and of course to Israel.”
Netanyahu paid a state visit to China in 2013