Consul General a witness to China's rapid progress

In his third mission to China, Dr Eyal Propper has high expectations of moving bilateral relations forward
Consul General a witness to China's rapid progress
Dong Jun / SHINE

Dr Eyal Propper is back in China for a third time as the Consul General of Israel in Shanghai.

When Dr Eyal Propper arrived in Beijing in 1992, the Fourth Ring Road was still in its initial stages and the airport highway didn’t exist. China and Israel had just established diplomatic ties.

Working for the Israeli Embassy, Propper helped initiate a series of agreements in business, culture, education and more. For one, he helped organize the first visit of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra with Zubin Mehta and Itzhak Perlman to perform in Beijing in 1994.

“My mission then was to pave the bilateral framework to get everything started,” he recalls.

When he was back in Beijing 10 years later, high-speed trains were at the planning stage, and he was impressed at the rapid development of the city, the country and bilateral relations. At that time, he helped Israel join the Boao Forum for Asia.

“I was very much impressed,” he tells Shanghai Daily. “I was impressed of the fact that the government could have such long-term plans and have them implemented in the end.”

He is now back for a third time, as the Consul General of Israel in Shanghai, vowing to taking further steps in implementing the agreements he had helped initiate and pushed forward in his last two missions in China.

“I feel the change on the ground,” he says. “In these different periods, not only China transformed rapidly, but also relations between the two countries.”

He quotes the number of direct flights as an example. In 1992, El Al and Air China began direct flights from Beijing, but the latter stopped the service after seven months due to a lack of passengers.

Now, 11 flights a week by El Al and Hainan Airlines transport tourists and businessmen to and from both countries, “a clear proof of enough demand and how people from China and Israel want to build stronger relations with each other via business and tourism,” Propper says.

Consul General a witness to China's rapid progress
Israeli Consulate General / Ti Gong

The old city of Jerusalem is one of the most popular destinations in Israel for visitors from all around the world.

Coming back for a third time, his mission is to move relations further forward.

“When I came in 1992, it was all the beginning. Now I want to see more implementations,” he says. “I would like to see more and more Israeli companies having their offices in China trying to build joint ventures with Chinese companies. I hope to see more investment from and for both sides. I expect to find more and stronger cooperation between universities of the two nations. I want to have more cultural activities together, more people-to-people exchanges and more benefits on the level of innovation.”

Israel is a strong partner in the Belt and Road Initiative and a founding member of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. Propper believes that Israel could contribute especially in terms of innovation and high technology.

The consulate office recently organized a workshop in Anhui Province with 22 Israeli companies strong in agriculture technology and more than 100 Chinese companies in demand of such technology.

Other fields where he has high expectation of bilateral partnerships include medical services, new energy cars and high-tech environmental solutions such as cleaning polluted water.

“We have just celebrated the 70th anniversary of independence, which is a miracle, as we started with half a million people,” he says.

“And we came today to a very strong innovative country in high technology, as a symbol of stability, with good partnership with many countries in the neighborhood and around the world. We have good relations with many countries in Asia, where China is a center.”

Consul General a witness to China's rapid progress
Israeli Consulate General / Ti Gong

A tourist enjoys the Dead Sea and the sunshine.

In 2017, around 120,000 Chinese tourists visited Israel, and the number is expected to increase further this year.

“Israel is beautiful and also unique in the historic respect,” Propper says.

He says the Dead Sea was very attractive to Chinese tourists, some for medical reasons. More Chinese visitors have also been traveling to Tel Aviv and Shanghai’s sister city Haifa, both very open cities on the seashore.

“Tel Aviv is very much like Shanghai, where you can feel the multicultural and the open-minded environment,” he says. “We are also getting more tourist-friendly for Chinese people. For example, some hotels even serve Chinese breakfast.”

To celebrate the country’s 70th birthday, the consulate recently hosted an “Innovation Impression” design competition, calling for innovative diplomatic gift ideas from Chinese residents in its jurisdiction.

The winner’s design will become official diplomatic gifts when the outcome is announced by the end of May.

“We are trying to do something innovative in China, and to learn about Chinese from it so we can move relations even further,” he says.

Consul General a witness to China's rapid progress
Israeli Consulate General / Ti Gong

The Opera House in Tel Aviv

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