TEL AVIV – Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced a new NIS 3 million ($800,000) initiative to strengthen economic ties with China, Hebrew news site nrg reported on Sunday.
Israeli graduates of Far East and Chinese-language studies can enroll in a special program beginning in 2017 run jointly by the Foreign Ministry and China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
According to the Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Eli Groner, who is leading the China-Israel economic initiative, the program aims to train Israelis on how to deal with the Chinese market.
Groner told cabinet ministers on Sunday that although he is generally of the view that governments should refrain from meddling in the free market, the situation is different when it comes to China.
“In China, the government is heavily involved in the economy, and they expect us to behave in a similar manner,” he said.
“Without a parallel push from our government, relations [with the People’s Republic] will not flourish as anticipated.”
Last week, more than 200 Chinese government officials and business leaders arrived in Israel as part of an economic delegation. Groner and NDRC Vice Chairman Wang Xiaotao signed 15 cooperation agreements while an additional 15 deals were signed between businessmen from both countries.
Groner told nrg that Israel and China have plenty to offer one another and as such it is crucial that the countries are on the same page.
Groner added that tourism between China and Israel has been exploding on both ends.
“The government’s objective to bring 100,000 tourists per year from China by 2019 is exceeding expectations,” he said, “to the point that this might be achieved as early as 2017.”
To that end, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism has allocated some NIS 700,000 ($184,000) in grant money for students of East Asia to train in an official tour-guide course.
However, according to Ynet, Incoming Tour Operators Association CEO Yossi Fattal said that the increase in tourism from China isn’t necessarily a good thing and has led to the hijacking of jobs in the construction and tourism industries. Many Chinese tour guides lack experience or knowledge and in Fattal’s words, this “is causing us to ruin the tourism industry with our own hands.”
The Algemeiner reported in May that China’s Hainan Airlines joined El Al to become the second airline operating a direct Beijing-Tel Aviv route.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Last month, Israeli passengers were outraged to see that Israel was listed as “Palestinian Territories” on a Hainan Airlines flight to Tel Aviv.