On Nov. 15, Israeli Ambassador to China Matan Vilnai granted an exclusive interview to CNTV reporter Li Shouen to explain Israeli government’s new policy that grants 10-year visas to Chinese visitors. He also highlights some benefits for Chinese business people who are considering investing in Israel, as well as describing special places to visit for Chinese tourists.
Li Shouen (hereafter Li): Good afternoon, Ambassador Matan Vilnai. I think we might say that the official launching of the Ten Years Visa can be marked as a milestone of the bilateral relations between China and Israel. So, which sectors do you think would be further boosted by this policy?
Matan Vilnai (hereafter Vilnai): First of all, you're absolutely right, it’s a milestone in the relations between Israel and China.
You remember that next year will be the 25th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. You have to remember Israel was one of the first state in the Middle East that recognized China back to the 50s, but was the last to have diplomatic relations. That’s happened like this.
And next year we’re going to have the 25th anniversary of relations and this changing in the visa policy is a milestone in our relations.
Everyone can benefit from this: Chinese side, Israeli side, business people, academia, university students... Everyone that used to work in China/Israel will benefit from this.
And it will be very easy to visit Israel, very easy to visit China and for us it’s very important, therefore we have this celebration.
When I came to China, after several weeks I asked the Chinese policy to have some adjustments: once it used to take 3-4 weeks to get a visa,now it’s days - it’s not weeks - it’s just in a week. And it’s very easy to do in Tel Aviv and in Beijing.
And now we have the 10-years visa. It will be very important for both sides. Everyone will benefit from this.
Li: Israel has enjoyed a reputation for promoting advances in science and technology. What are some of the latest innovations and technology trends that are coming out of the country?
Vilnai: I don’t know, you won’t believe it, every week I find three new topics that you can’t think about them in agro-tech, in healthcare, in every field.It’s interesting because it’s not from a planning by someone, it’s the spirit of the Israeli people.
That innovation is part of their life and it’s obvious for them, they have to innovate all of the time and there are so many new ideas in medical, in agro-tech, information, in every aspect.You see a lot of new technology in small issues, but it’s wonderful to see, so there is no straight answer to this. It’s everywhere, really everywhere.
Li: Maybe in the first two decades after establishing formal relations, we had enjoyed more FDI from Israel into China. But, now, with China’s Belt & Road initiative, more Chinese enterprises are seeking to go abroad. Do you have any suggestions for them if they intend to invest in Isreal?
Vilnai: Take a visa, go to Israel and start to wander around, you’ll find it. Believe me, you’ll find it. You have of course to organize it before, but at the end the best way is to come to Israel.
You know when I came to the embassy to be an ambassador, it was four years ago, I asked my people, I asked my staff, you won’t believe it, every month (there was only) one delegation to Israel. You know how many delegations now are per month? Hundreds, I believed it was dozens, the visa people correct me, hundreds, every time, all the time.
They visit Israel and this is the best way to do it. The moment you are there, you can see by your own eyes what’s going on, what you can do, you understand what is your ideas and you can work together.
And the best way, just to come to Israel and to see. You don’t need my suggestions, my advices, you will find it. Every businessman will find it in Israel. I’m sure about it.
Li: Many Chinese tourists, who travel abroad love to visit exotic locations. So which are the special places for them to visit in Israel?
Vilnai: First and the most important, it’s not the Dead Sea, it’s Jerusalem. For many people in the world this is the center of the world,for Christian, for Muslims and for Jewish people.
And it’s a vibrant city. You have to be there in order to see it.Being in Jerusalem you are back in history for thousands of year ago. They are the only ones who can look thousands of years ago on earth, are the Chinese and Jewish people.
And being in Jerusalem, it’s wonderful. And I was born in Jerusalem, I grew up in Jerusalem, I lived in Jerusalem. And wandering around to see tourists from all over the world. You can find them, now including the Chinese. And it’s a different phenomenon, China.
Secondly, go to Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is a vibrant, modern city with young people. Innovation is the spirit of the city. It’s not directed by someone. It’s happened.The young Israelis,they enjoy to live in Tel Aviv.It’s on the Mediterranean coast. It’s a wonderful place to be.
And last but not least,is the Dead Sea. I don’t have to tell you about the Dead Sea. You know better than me about the Dead Sea.It’s wonderful to be there. So these three points, you must visit in Israel.
Li: Will there be more opportunities for young people and students from both side to exchange?
Vilnai: Absolutely, absolutely.This is the goal of the new policy. Let’s talk again about the numbers. Four years ago, we had in Israel about 15,000 tourists from China. It’s nothing, it’s really a “drop”, it’s nothing.
I put the goal of 100,000 for Next, next year in 2018.This year we’re going to finish with 70,000 and I hope that next year will be 85 (thousand) and then 100 (thousand).
It became a goal of our government. It’s adopted by the government and now the goal is to have every year 100,000 Chinese tourists to Israel.
In order to compare it from the United States of America that we have long relations with and we have a huge Jewish community there, second to the Jewish community in Israel. We have every year about 400,000 and now we are talking about 200,000 from China. It’s only a matter of time and the sky is the limit.
The moment the visas are easy to get, the moment every day we have a direct flight from Beijing and from Hong Kong directly to Tel Aviv. I hope in a short while there will (also) be (direct flight) from Shanghai as well, (by) Hainan Airlines, a Chinese airliner and El Al, (Israeli Airlines). This is really wonderful. It’s very easy to visit Israel.
And I really ask people to come to Israelto see Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea.It will be wonderful.
Li: What can China and Israel do to boost trade and investment ties between the two nations?
Vilnai: To get to know each other as much as we can.And again therefore the visa is so important.
And I used to say that if every Chinese visit Israel for a short visit, 4-5 days, when he comes back to China, he’s in competition with me, because he becomes an Israeli ambassador to China, better than me, because he is a Chinese and he understands China better than me.
So, visit Israel and the sky is the limit. This is the most important thing. (The end)
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