China’s vice president will participate in an “innovation” event in Israel this month, making him the highest-ranked Chinese official to visit the Jewish state in more than a decade, Hebrew-language reported Monday.
Wang Qishan will head a Chinese delegation to the fourth installation of the Israeli Innovation Summit, organized by the Prime Minister’s Office, on October 24-25. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will attend both days of the event.
Qishan, considered a close ally of President Xi Jinping, is in charge of financial issues and is a dominant figure in Beijing’s diplomatic relations, particularly with the United States.
He will land in Israel on October 22 and will head the delegation in discussions meant to expand business and trade opportunities and cooperation between Jerusalem and Beijing.
Qishan will be the guest of honor in a gala event scheduled for October 24 and in the grand opening of a new innovation center at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation a day later.
Also attending the conference will be Jack Ma, the billionaire founder and CEO of retail giant Alibaba, who will be one of the keynote speakers at the conference, according to the reports.
It will be Ma’s second visit to Israel in six months, after a busy tour in May in which he explored business opportunities in the country, visited the offices of several local startups and met Netanyahu in Jerusalem.
At the time, the Chinese business magnate, investor, and philanthropist noted that Israel was a much more peaceful country than he expected, with a strong economy and security. Netanyahu invited him to invest in Israel, saying “there are amazing opportunities here.”
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.
Israeli exports to China increased dramatically, by 62 percent, in the first eight months of 2018 compared to last year — from $2.14 billion in 2017 to $3.5 billion — according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Imports from China increased by 10%, from $4.45 billion last year to $4.9 billion in 2018.
Before that, China, the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy, was still regarded a “relatively minor player” in the Israeli economy, focusing almost exclusively on strategic investments and making up at most 5% of the total activity in Israel, a report by IVC Research Center said in February.
Shoshanna Solomon contributed to this report.