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Netanyahu continued: “I was pleased to hear that China has begun to reduce oil purchases from Iran. I appreciate China’s need to ensure a regular supply of sources of energy in order to continue its impressive growth. I believe that it is possible to replace Iranian oil and I hope that the Chinese leadership will join the European countries and quickly act to completely halt purchases of Iranian oil. Bilateral ties are important to us; therefore, we are committed to expanding them quickly in a variety of fields. To this end, I have issued a sweeping directive to approve any invitation to visit China. We are also launching a project that will bring to Israel 250 Chinese students a year. A large number of Israelis have already begun to study Chinese.” Approximately 3000 Kaifeng Chinese Jews live in Israel, and there were about 23,000 Chinese workers in Israel in 2001
Hosting Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in Beijing on March 16, 2012, China’s Vice-President Xi Jinping called for “closer exchanges and cooperation with Israel, as well as for comprehensive and long-term peace between Israel and the Arab countries.” He also hailed the progress in Sino-Israeli relations, and called on both sides to “deepen political trust and boost friendly exchanges in order to further bilateral ties.”
The Times of Israel reported on August 15, 2012 that three Chinese warships are in Port of Haifa as part of a four-day goodwill visit marking 20 years of Sino-Israeli diplomatic relations – the first time Chinese naval ships have ever docked in Israel. Three months ago, IDF Chief-of-Staff, Benny Gantz, visited China as part of an initiative to boost military relations. It was the first visit of an IDF chief since 1968, and was aimed at strengthening ties amid Beijing’s growing interests in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions. A year before, on May 25, 2011, the commander of the Chinese Navy Admiral Wu Shengli was on an official visit to Israel hosted by his Israeli counterpart Rear Admiral Eliezer Marom, nicknamed “Chin,” for his Chinese decent, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Israel appreciates the importance of China not only in the economic sphere but its culture as well. Israel and Israelis are beginning to recognize the elaborate tapestry that is China. Chinese language courses were recently introduced in the academic curriculum in a number of Israeli elementary and high schools.
China’s University of International Business Economics (UIBE) is offering its students the opportunity to study the development of Israel’s economy, its high-tech and business culture, the political aspects of its economy and trade, as well as learn about key figures in Israel’s economic history. The university president, Shi Jianjun said about Israel: “The Chinese are very impressed with Israel’s economy and believe it’s a model.” And, at the University of Foreign Affairs in Beijing the first class of 16 students has completed studies in Hebrew language and culture. Another 40 students are currently studying Hebrew at the university, while another dozen or so learn Hebrew in other Chinese universities.
Israel has clearly become an increasing object of interest for the Chinese as trade between the two countries grows, and as mutual admiration flourishes between these two distinct cultures. What is still missing, however, are stronger political relations.
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