Where did it all start?
This year, China and Israel marked 25 years of diplomatic relations. In 1992, China opened its embassy in Tel Aviv and Israel opened its embassy in Beijing. Later, Israel also opened consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Over these years, the two countries have cooperated in a variety of fields, including trade, tourism, healthcare, academia and technology.
Different yet so similar
There is no doubt about the fact that China and Israel are very different, but they also have a lot in common. Both countries have long histories and a love for learning, innovation and creativity. They both prioritize family and tradition. And of course … technology, the more hi-tech the better!
Bridging the gaps
It’s true that the lack of a common language and essential cultural differences were initially seen as barriers to collaboration. However, middlemen and translators who recognized the business potential overcame these barriers, made connections and introductions, and closed deals for a share of the profit. Israeli companies also began training their employees on Chinese cultural customs. Today, middlemen and translators are still part of the process, but a lot of business is conducted in English. And, a quick look at who’s learning what in Israel shows that studying Chinese language and customs is a job-winner in some markets.
A mutual affair
Fast forwarding to today, around 1000 Israeli companies have a presence in China and China has made a definite footprint in Israel. Major Chinese companies have invested in Israel’s innovative technologies, especially in hi-tech and biotech, which are seen to be more advanced and cost-effective than equivalent offerings in the Silicon Valley.
Examples of collaboration include Alibaba’s recent announcement about joining other Chinese tech giants like Baidu, Foson, Lenovo and Xiaomi and opening its R&D center in Israel; and the acquiring of national and privately-owned businesses by Chinese companies, including the Bright Food Group of Tnuva Food Industries, Fosun International of Ahava Cosmetics and ChemChina of Makhteshim Agam Industries.
In a recent conference in Beijing, 100 Israeli companies presented their technologies to over 1000 Chinese investors, and went on to close multiple deals. So it’s not only about Chinese companies wanting to invest in Israel’s technologies and Israel wanting their investment; it’s also about the doors of opportunity that China is willing to open up for the Startup Nation.
Finding the way with Waze
China’s interest in Israeli technologies recently took a $280 million step when Li Ka-shing, a Chinese billionaire invested in Israel’s renowned Technion University and opened branches in Guangdong Province and Shantou. He also invested in Israel when he acquired Waze, an Israeli navigation technology built by Technion graduates from Google.
Not only business
The unique Sino-Israel relationship has also brought change to the very architecture of our countries. If you’re lucky enough to visit Zhangjiajie in China's Hunan Province, you’ll see the world's highest and longest glass-bottomed bridge designed by the Israeli architect Haim Dotan. While in Israel, you’ll find Chinese professionals building our new homes, offices and hospitals, and the new Tel Aviv metro.
We like your Dim Sum. Do you like our cottage cheese?
We Israelis love our food and China’s dim sum and noodles are fairly high up on the list. First brought to Israel in the 1980s by celebrity chefs like Israel Aharoni, our Israeli-made Chinese stir fries are now very different to those served in China. And, we have given China some of our love for milk products. So, if you’re in China and are buying cottage cheese in a tub with a house on it, you’re eating an Israeli Tnuva product now owned by Bright Food.
Shalom and nǐhǎo
In terms of tourism, many Israelis are now visiting China, and Israel welcomed over 100,000 Chinese visitors in 2017. In fact, China’s Hainan Airlines recently upped its schedule and is now flying Beijing to Tel Aviv and Shanghai to Tel Aviv three times a week.
中以关系 or Yisrael-Sin
Either way it means that China and Israel do business together, so much so that China is now Israel's third largest export destination. Looking at our shared future, we can only guess where our friendship is headed. As the late President of Israel and a very wise man, Shimon Perez, once said: “The future is galloping like a horse, and if you don’t gallop with the horse, the horse will gallop without you”.
Curious about how your business can thrive in China? Check out the free eBook below.
Guest Author: Orit Oz
Founder & Owner of OZ Global B2B
OZ is a full-service global B2B agency that covers the entire spectrum of B2B services from strategy through to implementation. OZ Global B2B drives to push the boundaries of B2B brands and has spent the last 20 years promoting the Israeli industry in the global marketplace and helping to create world-class brands across multiple sectors.