Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited by President Xi Jinping to Beijing to mark 25 years of formal diplomatic relations between Israel and China. This March 2017 trip was PM Netanyahu’s second official visit to China during President Xi’s tenure. The delegation’s primary focus was trade and at its core was the third meeting of the China-Israel Joint Committee on Innovation and Cooperation (JCIC). The visit provided both countries with the opportunity to further broaden bilateral relations by expanding the foundations for economic cooperation and building diplomatic capital. More specifically, the events of PM Netanyahu’s trip to Beijing encouraged Chinese investment in Israel and further opened the door for more diverse Israeli investment in the Chinese market. In addition, the visit advanced the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) discussions between China and Israel – another round of FTA negotiations will take place in July.
The visit was significant in a variety of ways beyond mutual economic development. It illustrated Israel’s appreciation and respect for China’s top-down approach to business and commerce as a reflection of Chinese culture and history. This was understood to be the diametric opposite of Israel’s bottom-up business culture where individual companies, businesses and corporations act independently from the government including in international business. With Chinese companies seeking approval from both their own government and that of the country where they want to do business, Israel sought to create a framework to suit their needs.