'China is also concerned about the Iranian nuclear issue'
China's new ambassador to Israel, Ms. Gao Yanping, is set to host Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at an event this Tuesday to mark 20 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and Israel.
Ambassador Gao. "As two ancient civilizations, we have a great deal in common."
Photo credit: Yehoshua Yosef
"Iran should undertake the international obligation of nuclear non-proliferation," Ambassador Gao says.
Photo credit: Yehoshua Yosef
"Ken, ani lomedet Ivrit [Yes, I am learning Hebrew]...it’s a totally different language system," Ambassador Gao (left) says.
Photo credit: Yehoshua Yosef
How do you view the bilateral relations between Israel and China over the past 20 years?
When we look back on our diplomatic relations over the last 20 years, we have every reason to be proud of what has been achieved, and where we are. Our relationship is now comprehensive. The exchanges and cooperation cover a wide range of fields, including politics, economy, science and technology, agriculture, education, culture, and more. Our relationship is quite fruitful. For instance, the bilateral trade volume was a little more than $50 million 20 years ago. This year our trade volume is expected to exceed $10 billion. An increase of almost 200 times in 20 years! Our relationship is promising. We have increasingly frequent exchanges and cooperation. We had on average one Chinese delegation at or above the vice-ministerial level visit Israel each week last year. Many high-level Israeli officials are expected to visit China this year. Our cooperation is expanding and deepening every day.
Of course, our relationship has not always been smooth. We have experienced some ups and downs in the past two decades. We have also had different views on certain issues. However, we have been dealing with the problems from a long-term perspective, seeking common ground while setting aside our differences. More important, we are determined to promote our bilateral relations, to deepen our friendship, and to seek mutual respect, understanding, trust and benefits. Get the Israel Hayom newsletter sent to your mailbox!
Do you think our two peoples, both of which belong to ancient civilizations, share much common ground? How is China contributing to the education of the Chinese public opinion about Israel?
As two ancient civilizations, we have a great deal in common. Both of us enjoy profound histories, and splendid cultures. Both peoples are intelligent and diligent and pay great attention to education. Both nations have a history of being suppressed or persecuted. Historically, there was a strong link between the two peoples. Over 1,000 years ago, mutual exchanges between the two peoples began. During the Second World War, Shanghai accepted and provided assistance to thousands of Jews who fled from Nazi persecution in Europe. That part of history constitutes one of the most moving chapters of friendship and mutual assistance in human history.
The associations promoting friendship on both sides have played a very important role in the
development of our relations. I feel profound gratitude toward all the institutions and people who have ever contributed to the development of China-Israel relations. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Council for the Promotion of Israel-China Relations and its chairperson Dr. Miriam Adelson for their unremitting efforts to promote friendship and cooperation between our two countries and peoples. I am also deeply grateful to the Israel-China Society in Israel, its president, Mr. Teddy Kaufman, and other former Jewish residents in China for their dedication to and support for our lasting friendship. I believe the steady growth of state-to-state relations can only be achieved with wide public support.
I must say Chinese people are quite friendly toward Israelis. This is the conclusion of almost every Israeli who has ever visited China. I’d like to give you an example. The famous Israeli singer Ahinoam Nini performed in China last May. She wrote in her daily blog entries about her experiences on tour in China, and I quote, “The Chinese love Israel more than any other people I have ever met." To gain a better understanding of Israel, we have Hebrew language and Jewish culture courses taught in China’s prestigious universities like Peking University (Beijing University). We have Jewish studies institutes, such as the Center of Jewish Studies Shanghai and the Institute of Jewish studies at Nanjing University. If you go to bookstores in China’s big cities, you can easily find books entitled “Culture of Israel," “Literature of Israel." “Jewish Wisdom of Family Education," “Do Business like Jews Do," “Learn from the Success of Jews," etc.
There are many Chinese products in the Israeli market. Have you seen any Israeli products since you arrived that you think could be a great success in China? Many Israelis go to China for holiday; do you see also a growing interest of Chinese people to visit Israel?
Yes, I do find some Chinese products here, such as clothing, household electrical appliances, and other daily necessities. Many Israeli friends tell me the Chinese products sold in the Israeli market help reduce expenses for ordinary Israelis. As far as I know, modern Israeli agricultural technology is a great success in China. Chinese people speak highly of Israeli drip irrigation systems. China’s twelfth five-year plan outlines a reshaped economic structure, a modernized industrial mix and a greater policy of openness. I believe once Israeli enterprises in the high added-value business find their niche in China's economic restructuring, they will gain more orders, profits and market share in China.
As for tourism, there are 1.3 billion people in China. If one percent of Chinese people visit Israel, it is a large number. I do think there should be more Chinese tourists to Israel, because many Chinese people are quite interested in Israel and want to visit this fantastic country. I have to say there are some technical or practical problems hindering this process, such as difficulties in the application for tourist visas and security concerns. I think both sides should try to solve the technical problems and do more to promote tourism. By the way, Israeli tourists are always welcome in China. There are a lot of places of interest in China waiting for Israeli tourists to explore.
Many analysts believe the world is changing – does China agree with that analysis? How does China see her contribution to peace in the world?
If we look back on the international situation in recent years, we couldn’t agree more with that analysis. International relations and the international order are experiencing accelerated adjustments and changes. China has changed a lot over the past 30 years and more. China has become the second largest economy in the world. China’s global trade volume in goods ranks second in the world. Exports rank first. China imported goods worth nearly $750 billion annually in the last decade, which created over 14 million jobs for those exporting countries and regions. That said, China remains a developing country. China’s per capita GDP in 2010 was about $4,400, ranking around 100th in the world, which is less than one-sixth of that of Israel. Judging by U.N. standards, 150 million Chinese people are still living in poverty, which is 20 times the total population of Israel.
As for China’s contribution to peace in the world, I’d like to recommend the White Paper titled "China's Peaceful Development" issued last September, which elaborated on China’s concept of 'peaceful development' and China’s contribution to world peace and development. I want to share some facts with you: China is the only nuclear-armed country that has publicly stated it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons, or use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones. China has dispatched about 21,000 soldiers on 30 U.N. peacekeeping missions, which is the highest number among the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. China takes an active part in international cooperation in anti-terrorism and nonproliferation. It provides humanitarian aid and dispatches rescue teams to countries hit by severe natural disasters and deploys naval escort fleets to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia.
Does China view its relations with the Obama administration as 'a positive working relationship?'
I think China-U.S. relations are more than 'a positive working relationship.' In January 2011, President Hu Jintao paid a state visit to the United States. In a joint statement issued by the two countries, both sides declared their commitment to building 'a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit.' Since then, China-U.S. exchanges and cooperation have progressed in many areas. Due to differences in history, culture, social system and development levels, divergences and sensitive issues remain in China-U.S. relations. But I believe strengthening cooperation is the only choice for China and the U.S, as two big powers, considering their common interests and responsibilities. For the benefit of the two peoples, and for world peace, stability and development, both sides should respect each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests, and promote cooperation on bilateral, regional and global levels, and steer the relationship through challenges toward a better future.
Is China also concerned by Iran's nuclear program? Is China, the largest consumer of Iranian oil, ready to join the international community and impose strong sanctions against Iran, including boycotting their oil and sanctioning their central bank?
Yes, like most countries in the world, we are concerned about the Iranian nuclear issue. We closely follow its developments. We oppose the proliferation of nuclear weapons and disapprove of the development of nuclear weapons by any Middle East country as many countries do. As a member to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), Iran should undertake the international obligation of nuclear non-proliferation.
China is a peace-loving country. We are committed to peaceful dialogue, not saber-rattling conflict, as a means of dealing with difference. As Churchill said, 'To jaw-jaw always is better than to war-war.' We always hold that dialogue and cooperation is the best way to seek a comprehensive, long-term and appropriate settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue. Sanctions and even the use of force cannot resolve the issue fundamentally, and by doing so it may be counter-productive. There is still room for Iran and the international community to further strengthen dialogue and cooperation. We should not give up our efforts, but rather increase input in this regard. The top priority now is to reopen the dialogue between the P5+1 and Iran as soon as possible. China maintains normal and transparent commercial ties with Iran in the fields of energy and trade. That neither violates relevant resolutions of the U.N. Security Council nor impairs the interests of other countries or the international community, and thus should not be called into question.
How worried is China by the world's economic problems? How can you contribute to stabilizing the global economic situation?
The current global economic situation deserves our high attention. Some major economies are experiencing economic slowdowns, and other countries are facing acute sovereign debt problems. The international financial market is still volatile. Emerging markets face high inflationary pressure. Protectionism in various forms is mounting. The continuing turbulence in the Middle East, as well as extreme weather conditions and frequent natural disasters, have also had a negative impact on the world economy. As a result, the global economic recovery is fraught with instability and uncertainty and encounters growing risks and challenges.
Regarding China’s contribution to stabilizing the economic situation, I would like to quote Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd who spoke at the Asia Society in New York on Jan. 13. He said, 'China during the Global Financial Crisis has indeed demonstrated itself to be both willing and able to act as a responsible global stakeholder. In fact, without China, the global economy would not have recovered as rapidly as it did.'
Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis, China has actively responded to domestic and external challenges to maintain strong growth at home. According to the preliminary estimation, China’s GDP grew by 9.2% in 2011. China’s steady and fast development has been the biggest contribution to the world economic recovery. In the coming five years, China's imports are expected to exceed $8 trillion, which is very good news for the world. At the same time, China has substantially increased its financial contribution to international financial institutions, extended a helping hand to other developing countries, increased bond purchase from developed countries and played its part in assisting the economic and social development of relevant countries and stabilizing the international economic and financial situation.
China will continue to work with other countries with common responsibilities. I believe we should make concerted efforts to strengthen the coordination of macroeconomic policies, fight protectionism, improve the international monetary system and tackle climate change and other challenges. We should welcome the fast development of emerging economies, respect different models of development, increase help to least developed countries to enhance their capacity for self-development, and promote strong, sustainable and balanced growth of the global economy.
How desirable is the post of Ambassador of China in Tel Aviv? How do you find Israel and Israelis? Who is the most famous Israeli in China?
I am greatly honored to be posted as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to the State of Israel. I will do my utmost to further promote friendship and cooperation between our two countries and peoples during my tenure. Politically, I hope to build up the momentum of political exchanges at all levels, and enhance mutual understanding and trust. Economically, I hope to expand and deepen our mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, investment, high-technology, new energy and agriculture, and to bring more and more benefits to our people. For interpersonal exchanges, I hope to find more channels, and create better conditions to draw schools, think tanks, news media, cultural organizations, businesses and local communities into our exchange programs, and get everyone involved in the cause of promoting China-Israel friendship. I believe my tenure here will leave a deep imprint on my memory.
I find Israel much safer than I thought it to be. I think Israel is a fantastic country with a combination of the ancient and the modern. The more time I stay in Israel, the deeper I love it. I love Israeli people. They have a lot of merits. When I think of Israelis, many adjectives immediately come into mind: intelligent, innovative, hard-working, persistent, brave, united, easy-going, always helpful and friendly. When I meet with Israeli people for the first time, I feel like meeting with old friends. It’s a wonderful experience.
If you ask me who is the most famous Jew in China, my answer is Karl Marx or Albert Einstein. Karl Marx is a Jew who has never been to China but enjoys the greatest influence on the direction of modern China. Albert Einstein set foot in China in the 1920s in a brief stop in Shanghai. He is an icon for many young people who dream of becoming a great scientist for the benefit of all mankind. President Shimon Peres and other Israeli statesmen and notables are also held in high esteem in China.
How do you find the Chinese restaurants in Tel Aviv? Do you like Israeli food?
To be frank, the best Chinese restaurants in Tel Aviv are at the Chinese Embassy and my residence. We have professional and experienced chefs from China. Many Israeli friends invited to dinner at my residence enjoy the Chinese food very much. As for Israeli food, I’ve tried a lot of it. St. Peter's Fish leaves a deep impression because of its legend and cooking. China has the same kind of fish, but it is an ordinary dish without the legendary name. My staff in the Chinese Embassy also like local food. Like Chinese food, Israeli food is delicious, healthy and not expensive.
Do you plan to learn Hebrew? Does it seem complicated? Are you intending to bring more Chinese culture to Israel?
Ken, ani lomedet Ivrit [Yes, I am learning Hebrew]. It looks complicated because it’s a totally different language system with its own characters. Although I am quite busy, I try to learn some basic sentences when I have time. I also encourage my staff to learn more basic Hebrew. They have a Hebrew language course at the embassy. I hope to be able to speak with you in Hebrew when I accomplish my mission in Israel.
Cultural exchange is an important dimension of our relations. This year marks the 20th anniversary of our diplomatic ties. There will be an art performance of "Poetry of Kung Fu–Nine Scrolls," Chinese folk dances, a Chinese film festival and other cultural events held in Israel. We are also thinking of introducing Chinese works of art and relic exhibitions to Israel in the coming years. I believe that through joint efforts, we can have greater cultural exchanges.
Last but not least, how do you see the future of our relations? What do you wish to achieve during the years you are posted here?
I believe our relations in the future will be quite promising. There is a lot of potential for our cooperation bilaterally, regionally and internationally. Our two countries are highly complementary. Israel is famous for its innovative ideas and advanced technology. China is abundant in human resources and has vast markets. If we work jointly, we can translate our respective advantages into mutual benefits. With the fast development taking place in China, we will buy more Israeli products, invest more in Israel and build more infrastructure, creating more and more job opportunities and benefits for Israeli people. Moreover, both countries hope to see a more stable region, a more peaceful and prosperous world. We can cooperate in the promotion of peace, stability, and development in the region and the world at large.
I feel quite lucky to work in Israel because my five predecessors have laid a solid foundation of bilateral relations for me to build upon. I feel even fortunate to serve as Ambassador of China to Israel because the Israeli government attaches great importance to our relations, Israeli friends always lend a help hand and the Israeli general public is quite interested in China and supportive of China-Israel relations. I have many things to do in my tenure to further our friendship and cooperation, including to double our two-way trade volume as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wishes and to achieve more welfare for our two peoples. I know that without the Israeli government and people’s support, I cannot get anywhere. I am looking forward to their continuous understanding and support, and to joining hands for a better future. Like our newsletter? 'Like' our Facebook page!