Alibaba founder Jack Ma visiting Israel this week
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Alibaba founder Jack Ma visiting Israel this week

The Chinese business magnate and investor is scheduled to meet with the prime minister and address students and researchers at Tel Aviv University

Alibaba founder Jack Ma speaks during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Alibaba founder Jack Ma speaks during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

The founder and chairman of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Jack Ma will be visiting Israel this week on a trip about which the organizers have been tight-lipped.

The Chinese business magnate, investor, and philanthropist is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and give a talk to students at Tel Aviv University on Thursday, as well as receive an honorary doctorate from the university and meet with researchers in the fields of artificial intelligence, engineering and computer sciences.

Israeli website Globes reported that Ma will also meet with economy minister Eli Cohen. Ma landed in Israel this morning with a delegation of 35 people, Globes said, and started his trip with a visit to the Dead Sea where he reportedly floated in the water. On Wednesday, the delegation will also visit the Israel Museum in Jerusalem for a tour and lunch, and while in Jerusalem they will also meet up with officials of venture capital fund Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), with whom the Chinese firm is partnering to invest in Israeli tech startups.

The Chinese firm made its first foray into the Israeli startup market in 2015 when it invested in Visualead, a Tel Aviv-based startup specializing in developing “designer” quick response codes. Later that year it partnered with Israeli venture capital firm JVP to invest in multiple Israeli tech startups. It has also invested in Israeli startups such as Twiggle, Infinity Augmented Reality, Lumus and ThetaRay. The firm has also announced plans to set up an office in Tel Aviv as part of a $15 billion global R&D program.

China, the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy, is still a “relatively minor player” in the Israeli economy, focusing almost exclusively on strategic investments, a report by IVC Research Center said in February. Chinese direct investments, mergers and acquisitions, and buyout activity make up at most 5 percent of the total activity in Israel, the report said.

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