On Sunday evening, September 16, the sounds and sights of traditional Chinese opera came to Tel Aviv, with an unforgettable performance at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. The performance, by the China National Peking Opera Company, was the centerpiece of an evening dedicated to commemorating the 69th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Israeli and international diplomats, business and civil society leaders, met at the Museum of Art for a celebration of Chinese culture. After enjoying dinner in the lower atrium of the museum, guests were ushered into the auditorium for the official ceremony and the anticipated opera performance.
As they entered the hall, guests were shown beautiful messages in Chinese and Hebrew, and images of friendship between the two nations, including photos of Jerusalem with singing in Chinese in the background. Once all of the guests had arrived, the ceremony began with the playing of the national anthems.
H.E. Ambassador Zhan Yongxin welcomed the guests, noting that this was a double celebration--69 years of the People’s Republic of China, and 40 years since China’s economic reform and opening up to outside investment. The ambassador described how the country has developed as a result of the robust economic growth over the last 40 years. He noted specifically China’s annual GDP and foreign trade growing at rates of 9.5% and 14.5% annually, leading to an incredible rise in per capita disposable income by a factor of 100. In total, the ambassador reported that “more than 700 million Chinese people were lifted out of poverty, accounting for over 70 percent of the world's poverty population.”
The ambassador explained that this has also benefited China’s trade partners over the last 40 years, with China contributing 30% of global economic growth in recent years. He informed the audience that the 75 economic and trade cooperation zones that China has built abroad have resulted in 2.2 billion USD taxes revenue and 210 thousand jobs for host countries. This includes China, which is already Israel’s largest trading partner in Asia, and rapidly growing, with bilateral trade volume grew more than 20% in the first half of 2018. Ambassador Zhan also noted that China will hold the first China International Import Expo in Shanghai this November, with participation from 140 countries, including Israel.
Observing that Israel-China relations are at a high, the ambassador mentioned the visit by Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu to China last year and the subsequent establishment of the China-Israel Innovative Comprehensive Partnership. Direct flights between Tel Aviv and Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong (and soon Chengdu) serve nearly 200,000 Israeli and Chinese travelers, with the Chinese tourism to Israel almost tripling in two years. Finally, the establishment of the Joint Committee on Innovation Cooperation and an Intergovernmental Mechanism of Economic and Technological Cooperation, and the opening of a Chinese Culture Center in Tel Aviv are further evidence of the growing ties between China and Israel. The minister closed with a toast to the friendship and success of the two nations.
Minister of Science, Technology and Space Ofir Akunis spoke on behalf of the Israeli government. Minister Akunis noted that although Israeli-Chinese diplomatic relations formally began only 26 years ago, the history of the two people goes back much farther. He noted a Jewish community in Kaifeng from the 10th century, as well as China serving as a safe haven for Jews from Russian pogroms in the late 19th century, and again during World War II for Jews fleeing the horrors of the Holocaust.
With this backdrop, the minister agreed with Ambassador Zhan that Israel-China relations are on the rise. He cited his own four visits to China, along with a recent visit by his Chinese counterpart, Mr. Wang, Minister of Science and Technology of China, and the upcoming visit by the vice president of China Mr. Wang Qishan, as further proof of the significance of Israeli-Chinese collaboration. This cooperation is particularly strong in the sciences, with researchers, scientists, academics, and government agencies partnering on a range of topics, and the opening of the Guangdong Technion Israel Institute of Technology in China. Fittingly, the minister finished his remarks by presenting a book on Israeli innovation to the ambassador.
Following the speeches, the guests enjoyed a remarkable performance by the Peking Opera Company, which performed three short operas: On the Crossroads; The Palace of Eternal Youth, and the Monkey King. The lively sounds and colors of the opera soon enveloped the hall, and the applause after each performance and at the end of the evening was thundering.
Along with numerous members of the Israeli and international diplomatic corps, the distinguished guests in attendance included former Knesset member and minister Orit Noked; Professor Moshe Lewenstein, deputy president of Bar Ilan University; Professor Danielle Gurevich, director of the Asia division at Bar Ilan University; Ofer Dahan-Director of International Division at Bar Ilan University;; Yona Bartal, representative of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation; former basketball player Tal Brody, and Roni Klein, Global Sales Director at IDE technologies.
Diplomacy.co.il offers congratulations to the embassy of the People’s Republic of China on this important anniversary, and best wishes for years of prosperity and friendship.