Attendees at a technology conference in Tel Aviv last week took home mock boarding passes to Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou. Those are among the stops on a 10-day roadshow across China in November, where the Israeli government plans to showcase the country's life-sciences companies.
The gimmick highlighted Israel's expanded focus on trade, particularly in technology, with the world's most populous country. Some 350 Chinese businessmen and government officials convened at the event to meet with Israeli tech entrepreneurs and scientists.
"Israel is going east," Nafatli Bennett, the country's economy minister, said at the conference on May 22. "We are shifting our economic resources to Bangalore, Africa and China, China, China."
That shift is also taking place in the country's academic circles. Tel Aviv University announced last week that it's teaming up with Tsinghua University in Beijing to establish the XIN Center for research into areas like nanotechnology.
From tech to food, Israeli business with China has quickly heated up. Last week, China's Bright Food Group finally reached a preliminary agreement to buy a majority stake in Israel's largest foodmaker, Tnuva Food Industries, for an estimated $1 billion. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a ministerial committee on May 21 to approve a five-year plan to double annual Israeli exports to China. The panel allocated 49 million shekels ($14 million) a year to execute the program.
"China is Israel’s largest trading partner in Asia, and looking ahead, it seems it will soon become Israel’s largest trade partner in general," said Netanyahu in a meeting with China Vice Premier Liu Yandong on May 19. "We admire China and are confident that Israel has made a contribution in these connections. One of these areas is innovation."