Israel and China are set to sign a 10-year multiple entry visa agreement this week, making the Jewish state only the third country, after the United States and Canada, to have such an arrangement with Beijing.
The visa agreement will be signed in the framework of the second meeting of the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation, which is taking place Tuesday in Jerusalem. Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong is due in Israel for the event and for meetings with senior Israeli officials.
“So far, China has 10-year multiple entry visa agreements only with the US and with Canada, so the agreement to be signed this week is a tremendous achievement for Israeli diplomacy,” said Hagai Shagrir, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s Northeast Asia department.
The deal, which will be signed by Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely and her Chinese counterpart, will allow Israeli businesspeople and tourists to enter China multiple times with the same visa, which will be valid for a decade. The same will apply for Chinese citizens visiting Israel, an arrangement which Jerusalem hopes will help increase tourism.
“This will dramatically change the travel habits of of both peoples,” Shagrir said.
Currently, about 30,000 Chinese citizens visit Israel each year, a number Israel hopes to raise to 100,000 within less than three years, Shagrir said.
“Our goal is to increase the number of visits from tourists and businessmen. Already today more than 25 percent of investment in Israeli high tech comes from China and Hong Kong. And Chinese tourists are the best for Israel (in terms of their spending); they leave more money here than any other tourists.”
Next month, China’s Hainan Airlines will commence direct flights to Israel, becoming the first Chinese and the second Asian carrier to do so.
Besides meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, Liu, who last visited Israel in May 2014, will also travel to Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
“China is Israel’s largest trading partner in Asia and fast becoming perhaps Israel’s largest trading partner — period — as we move into the future,” Netanyahu said at the time.