(Communicated by the MFA Spokesperson)
Israel and China are commemorating today (24 January) twenty years of diplomatic relations. Israel assigns great importance to the promotion of its ties with China, the number two economic power in the world, a member of the UN Security Council and a major player in Asia and in the international arena. Israel greatly admires the economic, scientific and technological development that characterizes the growth of China in the last few decades.
Former foreign ministers David Levy and Qian Qishen sign the agreement
establishing diplomatic relations (Jan 24, 1992)
The connection between China and the Jewish people goes back a thousand years, to the time when Jewish merchants from Central Asia arrived via the Silk Road to the city of Kaifeng and found a home there.
The Jewish people appreciates that China provided a safe haven for thousands of Jews during two dark and difficult periods in its history: during the persecutions and pogroms in Russia at the end of the 19th century and throughout the Russian revolution, and during World War II, when 30,000 Jewish refugees from Europe found sanctuary in the city of Shanghai.
Despite the differences in size of population and geographical area, the Chinese people and the Jewish people share many similarities. Both are from the most ancient, continuous civilizations in the world; both place a high value on family and tradition, education and scholarship, persistence and hard work. Each is very aware of its rich historical heritage and both strive to contribute to the development of humankind.
China and Israel are enjoying a flowering of relations in recent years, with an ongoing political dialogue. China has become Israel's third largest export market and bilateral trade is on the upswing already for several years. In the last two years, a number of important agreements have been signed in the fields of the economy and science, and representatives of Israel's finest cultural institutions have visited China.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs views China as a state of high priority and in recent years has allocated many resources - human and monetary - for the promotion of ties between the two countries. As an example, two years ago Israel opened a consulate in southern China in the city of Guangzhou, in addition to the existing consulates in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and the embassy in Beijing.
The twentieth anniversary of diplomatic ties is an important milestone and many events - cultural, economic and scientific - are scheduled to take place in both countries with the aim of strengthening and expanding the relations between Israel and China.
As the twentieth anniversary approaches, there has been an exchange of Notes between the leaders of Israel and China, including the prime ministers, the presidents and the foreign ministers, which express their commitment to enhancing the relations between them.
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Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks Tuesday evening, 24 January 2012, at an event marking 20 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and China:
"Israel and China are a successful combination because we are peoples rooted in glorious traditions that also embrace the future. The rise of modern China is one of the most important events of our time, as is the rise of modern Israel. We will never forget the goodwill of the Chinese people who provided shelter for persecuted Jews in the darkest hours. Millennia-old societies provide a strong basis for future cooperation in many fields. I believe that Israel and China can act together to ensure peace in the Middle East.
I was pleased to hear that China has begun to reduce oil purchases from Iran. I appreciate China's need to ensure a regular supply of sources of energy in order to continue its impressive growth. I believe that it is possible to replace Iranian oil and I hope that the Chinese leadership will join the European countries and quickly act to completely halt purchases of Iranian oil. Bilateral ties are important to us; therefore, we are committed to expanding them quickly in a variety of fields. To this end, I have issued a sweeping directive to approve any invitation to visit China. We are also launching a project that will bring to Israel 250 Chinese students a year. A large number of Israelis have already begun to study Chinese. A Happy Year of the Dragon."