Chinese students studying at Sichuan International Studies University this fall will have the opportunity to take the first ever Israel studies program at a Chinese university that will focus on Israeli history, culture, and literature. The program’s goal is to encourage further Chinese-Israeli academic relations and hopes to see Chinese students study at English-speaking programs in Israel. Similar programs are currently being developed at other Chinese schools, such as Shanghai International Studies University, Henan University, and Shehezi University.
Israel and China formally established diplomatic relations nearly two decades ago. But those relations, which in the past mostly focused on cooperation in the high-tech field, are showing signs of widening to include defense and security ties and, of course, academic exchanges. In recent years, Israeli experts and companies have also assisted the Chinese in developing their agricultural and water technologies to meet growing needs, including introducing state-of-the-art greenhouse systems and drip irrigation systems.
Between 1992 and 2010, trade relations between Israel and China grew from $42 million to $6 billion. “We in China admire you and your Jewish mind…. we view what you have achieved as a miracle…. We admire you for creating miracles for 62 years,” China’s Ambassador to Israel, Zhao Jun, said in an interview last year. Also in 2010, Chinese Tourism Minister Shao Qiwei announced plans to boost activities aimed at marketing Israel as an attractive tourist destination.
While these latest initiatives mark a more cooperative chapter in the Sino-Israeli relationship, the two countries’ ties may prove that the key to Israel’s normalizing relations with some of the world’s powers lies not only with economic, but cultural and academic, cooperation.