I look forward to my visit to the beautiful country of Israel and attending the upcoming Israel Innovation Conference. I will have discussions with the Israeli side on ways to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation on innovation in a joint effort for the blossom of innovation cooperation between the two countries.
The Chinese and Israeli governments signed the agreements on S&T cooperation in 1993 and 2010. We see each other as an important partner for innovation cooperation. Our fruitful cooperation on science, technology and innovation (STI) has always been a major highlight in our relations of friendly cooperation, and a guide to collaboration in other fields. We are pleased to note that through the joint efforts of the two sides, a multi-tiered cooperation framework, covering national governments, local authorities, enterprises and research institutions of both countries, is taking shape. Meanwhile, our cooperation in joint R&D, innovation incubation, venture capital, and intellectual property has produced outstanding results, while science and technology is contributing more to the bilateral trade.
China-Israel cooperation on STI has taken deep root, blossomed and yielded fruitful results, because it grows in fertile land.
Friendship between the Chinese and Jewish nations dates back to ancient times. As early as over 1,000 years ago, there was already a visible Jewish community in China. They lived in harmony with the local Chinese people, leaving a much-told episode in China-Israel relations. Both the Chinese and Jewish nations take pride in their long history and splendid culture, yet they both suffered grave miseries in the past as well. The resistance against Fascism and the militarist invasion and aggression during the Second World War is a shared memory. In those difficult times, our peoples supported each other and shared weal and woe. Tens of thousands of Jews took refuge and settled down in China where they found not only acceptance but also sincere assistance from the Chinese people. This unusual experience forged a close bond between our two great nations.
China-Israel relations have enjoyed sound and steady growth. Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, we have maintained frequent exchanges at all levels, further enhanced political mutual trust, and expanded cooperation to new areas, bringing tangible benefits to the two countries and two peoples. Following the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu last May, President Peres paid a successful visit to China last month. China is now Israel's largest trading partner in Asia and its third largest trading partner globally. Two-way trade has increased by over 200-fold from over 50 million US dollars at the beginning of our diplomatic relations to more than 10.8 billion US dollars in 2013.
Both China and Israel have the good tradition of valuing science, technology and education. The Jewish nation is known for innovation and ingenuity. Israel leads the world in STI and tops the world in terms of R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP, density of start-ups as well as the ratio of scientists and engineers in its population. China, for long periods in its ancient history, was one of the world leaders in economy, science, technology and culture. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, especially since the launch of reform and opening-up in 1978, China has made rapid progress in science, technology and education, notably enhanced its scientific and technological strength, and made significant achievements in the research in aerospace, hybrid rice, super computer, bio-medicine and other high-tech fields. China's gross R&D expenditure now exceeds 195 billion US dollars, accounting for 2.09% of the GDP. China and Israel share the view that science and technology plays a critical role in promoting national development. This provides an important foundation for the two sides to expand the depth of bilateral cooperation.
China and Israel have conducted fruitful exchanges at the people-to-people level. The key to amicable state-to-state relations lies in the friendship between their peoples. China has been sending students to higher learning and scientific research institutions in Israel since 1993. To date, more than 2,000 Chinese students and researchers have studied or received training in Israel. From the Israeli side, over 2,000 senior experts have worked as volunteers in China. Currently, learning about China and studying the Chinese language is very popular in Israel. Mandarin courses are available in several primary and middle schools, and Confucius Institutes are opened at the Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The number of students signing up for mandarin studies in Israeli universities is only second to those for English courses. People-to-people exchanges are the communication between our hearts. They give strength and vitality to bilateral relations, foster popular support and create a sound environment for deepening cooperation on STI.
Looking into the future, I am full of hope and confidence in deepening China-Israel cooperation in STI, which is of great potential and broad prospects.
Enhancing China-Israel cooperation on STI is in line with the trend of times. At present, a new round of revolution on science, technology and industry is in the making on the global stage. All countries are making innovation a national strategy, and the cross-border flow of innovation factors and global allocation of innovation resources have become the trend of the times. China has adopted the strategy of innovation-driven development, placing STI at the heart of national development, and accelerating the transformation of growth model and economic restructuring. In the historic endeavor of realizing the great "Chinese Dream" in a country with over 1.3 billion people, the government is pushing forward the shift from factor-driven to innovation-driven development and the simultaneous development of industrialization, information technologies, urbanization and agriculture modernization, which will unleash unprecedented and immeasurable innovation demands. This will open up even broader space for China-Israel cooperation on science, technology and innovation.
China-Israel cooperation on STI features a high degree of complementarity. Israel has strong innovation capability in modern agriculture, clean energy, bio-technology, medical equipment, ICT and water efficiency technologies, while China has a big market, rich sci-tech resources, great manufacturing capacity and the capability for the industrialization of research findings, and it is also catching up fast in original innovation. Therefore, China and Israel each have their comparative strengths in STI. The two countries should build on the existing partnership and further deepen collaborations to achieve mutual benefit and common development.
China warmly welcomes and vigorously supports STI cooperation between the two countries. The fundamental objective of China-Israel STI cooperation is to achieve mutual benefit and common progress. China will continue to expand its opening-up efforts. We heartily welcome Israel and other countries to join China in pursuing innovation. Enhancing China-Israel STI cooperation will bring more benefits to the peoples of the two countries, and make even greater contributions to the global advance in science and technology and the progress of human civilization. The two countries need to identify the best areas for cooperation, establish innovation platforms, create flagship programs, and expand people-to-people exchanges, so as to build a sound environment for long-term, sustainable and substantive cooperation on innovation.
Innovation is the power engine for development, and cooperation leads to win-win scenario. Let us seize the historic opportunity, make use of our respective strengths, and deepen and broaden innovation collaborations to create more benefits to the peoples of our two countries. I am confident that with our hard work, the seeds we plant for STI cooperation will grow and bloom.