Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Rare visit suggests new profile

Trade high on agenda during Wang Yi’s visit to Israel 

CCTV, December 18, 2013

By CCTV reporter Matthew Kalman

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is in Jerusalem to begin three days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders before continuing his tour of the Middle East.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Tel Aviv on Tuesday for a three-day visit to Israel and Palestine - the first visit by such a senior Chinese official since 2009 - almost as rare as the raging snowstorm that has paralyzed Jerusalem and Ramallah for most of the past week. High on his agenda with Israeli leaders are the soaring trade relations between Israeli and China, which have grown in the past 20 years from $50 million to more than $8 billion a year. China is a major consumer and investor in Israel’s fast-growing high tech industry. Israeli technology is also helping to solve China’s problems with water, waste and agriculture. The largest water desalination plant in China was built by an Israeli company.
"Israel and China are complementary economies. China has the market. Israel has the technology. Israel has the sophistication to bring China to a more modern more developed economy. That’s exactly what China lacks. It’s the edge that Israel is able to offer China." said Aurora Colson, Israel-Asia Investment Analyst.
While the United States has long been involved in the Middle East, some analysts are asking whether Beijing will also raise its diplomatic profile on such issues as the Iranian nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, is one of many high-ranking Israelis who have made semi-official visits to Beijing recently to seek a common language on the region’s strategic issues.
"I would expect that China could play a greater role in the Middle East but I’m not sure China is coming to replace the United States. It’s my understanding that what’s most important for China is a stable Middle East. With China drawing so much of its energy and oil from this region, I’m sure they would like to contribute to a strategically balanced Middle East." said Dore Gold, President, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
This rare visit by the foreign minister comes just as Jerusalem is recovering from its worst winter storms in 50 years and all sides hope that it’s a sign of the increasing thaw in relations between the two countries.

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