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Ambassador Du Wei Gives A Written Interview to Makor Rishon

On April 17, Makor Rishon, the weekend supplement of Israel’s largest circulating Hebrew newspaper Israel Hayom, published Ambassador Du Wei’s written interview. The full text is as follows:

1. Immediately after your arrival in Israel, you went into home quarantine. How does it feel to start a new job that way?

I assumed my post in an extraordinary time when China was fighting against the COVID-19. Immediately after my arrival on February 15, I went into the 14-day home quarantine. During which, I had not taken a single step out of my residence nor had any direct contact with my Embassy colleagues. I just want to send a message to all Israeli friends that China is a responsible, rule-abiding and trustworthy country.

During that 14 days, I read several books about Israel, such as Living History, the memoir of Chaim Herzog who was the first President of Israel to visit China, and Jerusalem: the Biography. I have not met with many Israeli friends so far, but from these books, I learned something about the Jewish nation. The Chinese and the Jewish people have endured profound sufferings in history, but we have all risen after setbacks. The fight against the epidemic will enhance our resilience and deepen our friendship.

2. What do you think about the way Israel handles the fight against Covid-19? Are there any methods Israel should have learned from China?

Israel is in a serious battle against the virus. The Israeli government has taken forceful measures and achieved positive outcomes. I read that most of the Israelis support the government’s efforts.

As with the experience, I have to say that countries have different national conditions, and each country has its own way of fighting the disease. China stands with Israel in this fight. For example, we have held two sessions of video tel-conference between Chinese and Israeli experts. We are also facilitating Israel’s procurement and transportation of medical supplies in China. Chinese cities, businesses and ordinary people are expressing their sympathies and donating equipment to Israel. According to Israeli Consulate General in Shanghai, they had received donations of over 4 million RMB (2 million Shekels). As long as we have confidence and stay united, humanity will prevail in the fight against the disease.

3. Are there any unique sides for being a Chinese diplomat? Is it harder these days?

As the representative of his country, a diplomat’s career is closely linked with the destiny of his motherland. China, through hard efforts, has made impressive achievement in national development. People say that today’s China is close to the center of the world stage, and Chinese diplomats are standing in the spotlight on the stage. It is a glory and also a huge responsibility.

China is a trending topic in Israel and many other countries. We can see a lot of good suggestions, but also misunderstandings and unfounded criticisms. It is probably because of the distance, the culture difference as well as the deliberate misinformation by someone else. As China’s diplomat, we have to stand up and give a true picture of our nation. It is a crucial part of our job. I look forward to befriending with Israeli media and people from all walks of life, and to cement more popular support for China-Israel relations.

4. What are the lessons China learned in its fight against the COVID-19? Is there anything the world can do?

There are different voices regarding China’s fight. In the beginning, some voices were condescending and schadenfreude. Later, when the disease broke out around the world, the voices became “China should apologize”. It is scapegoating. In history, it has happened many times when the causes of diseases were wrongfully blamed on a specific group of people, which is despicable and should be condemned. The disease is the enemy of all mankind, and the world must fight it together.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said, the response to the epidemic is a major test on the governance system and capability. Our answers to the test are clear. With unprecedented efforts, we stopped the contagion within China and won time for the world. We overcome difficulties to resume production and actively support other countries. These answers will be judged by history and science, not by some ill-intentioned politicians.

Since it is a major test, there are experience and lessons we have to learn. We are making efforts to fix the shortcomings and weak links as soon as possible and put up a stronger defence for people’s health and safety. In this process, we welcome constructive advise from across the world.

5. What are your main goals during your time in Israel?

My hometown is Harbin, a city in the northeast of China. It received a large number of Jewish immigrants at the beginning of the 20th century. Those Jewish dedicated their wisdom and efforts to the city’s development. The synagogues, schools, banks, hotels built by them are well preserved even after a century, and these buildings have been an indelible part of my memory of hometown.

So, I am no stranger to this country and the Jewish people. My goals can be summarized in two words: friendship and cooperation. The story of Harbin is just a miniature of the millennium friendship between our two great nations. I hope to strengthen the bilateral ties and enhance the mutual understanding of our peoples, especially among our young people, so that the friendship will be passed down from generation to generation. I also want to promote cooperation on culture, tourism, education, innovation and a host of other areas, so the Innovative Comprehensive Partnership established in 2017 will be elevated to the next level.

6. Does China intend to increase her investments in Israel in the years to come?

Over the past few years, there has been a “Chinese investment boom” in Israel, including mergers & acquisitions and infrastructure projects. The investment brought concrete benefits to both countries, and we sincerely hope it will keep growing. But China's total investment in Israel, about USD 8 billion up to now, only represents 0.4% of China’s global investment. That means we have a huge potential for improvement.

The investment cooperation between China and Israel is based on mutual respect, equality and win-win benefits. The investment from China has no geopolitical agenda, no political strings, and poses no threat to Israel’s national security. I heard an argument goes that China is going to buy up Israel, because Israel is so small. This is absurd and groundless. Take Singapore for example, it is a country much smaller than Israel, but China has much more investment over there. Has anyone heard that the security, sovereignty or independence of Singapore was undermined because of these investments? I want to assure our Israeli friends, not an inch of China's land is bought from other countries, and China has no intention to buy any country.

7. Do you think Israel can be a growing destination for Chinese tourism?

With joint efforts of governments and businesses of our two countries, Israel is already a popular destination for Chinese tourists. In 2015, less than 50,000 Chinese travelled to Israel, and the number has grown to 150,000 in 2019. Israelis travelling to China has been maintained at around 100,000 per year. Considering the distance of our two countries and the size of Israel, it is a remarkable achievement,

Cultural exchanges and tourism draw peoples’ hearts closer. Some Israeli friends who visited China said that they were astonished by the openness and economic achievements of China. For Chinese tourists, Israel’s diverse natural sceneries and rich cultural and historical attractions are hard to resist. After this epidemic, we will continue to work with Israel to promote people-to-people exchanges and cement more public support for China-Israel relations.

8. Does China understand the Israeli concerns about Iran, and the need to impose sanctions?

China upholds that Israel’s right to exist and its legitimate security concerns should be fully respected. We are firmly opposed to anti-Semitic rhetoric, and we are against any unilateral sanction on the bases of domestic laws. China’s positions are clear and consistent. We hope all parties concerned can properly manage their differences and implement the JCPOA in a comprehensive and effective manner.

9. What are China’s view about the conflict in the Middle East?

The Middle East is an important area of China’s foreign policy. We hope countries in the region could cease hostility, build trust and co-exist in peace. The history of turmoil in the region is a testimony that absolute safety and security can not be won by absolute force. Peace between Israel and Egypt, Jordan has generated tangible benefits to all three nations and their people. This is a viable precedent for regional issues. We hope countries here can discard prejudices, bury the hatchets and negotiate for a shared future of common security and development.

10. About the future: in your view, how will China look like in 20 years?

In the Hebrew Bible, Solomon took 20 years to build the Temple and his royal palace. It is believed that the period of 20 years represents a cycle of completeness where, after trials and waiting, good actions will be rewarded.

In the next two decades, China, Israel and the whole world will experience profound changes unseen in the past century. The Austrian-Jewish writer Stefan Zweig famously put in his Decisive Moments in History, “an immeasurable wealth of events is crammed together in a small span of time...that determines and establishes everything.” Indeed, a host of new and unexpected events are popping up one after another, like the surge of protectionism and isolationism, the visits of black swans and grey rhinos as well as the deterioration of wealth gaps and governance deficits. Every country must come up with a responsible solution.

China’s solution is to develop our own country and contribute to the whole world. As early as 2012, President Xi put forward the idea of “Chinese dream” and a three-step plan to modernization. In 20 years, China will be very close to that dream, with per capita GDP at the level of a medium developed country, more advanced technologies and better lives of people. Moreover, through win-win cooperation with Israel and all other countries, China will continue to be a good partner for global growth and peace.

10. Do you think China will have a greater influence on the world in means of culture?

The Chinese and the Jewish people have created splendid civilizations, which serve as important sources for the Oriental and Western culture respectively and contributing historical wisdom to the solution of modern problems. Today, the choice of conflict or harmony, progression or retrogression, will largely depend upon the way we perceive and address differences between civilizations.

Two thousand years ago, the Chinese civilization has advocated “harmony without uniformity” and emphasized, “all living creatures grow together without harming one another or interfering with one another.” We hope these Chinese philosophical thoughts could gain greater traction across the world.

12. There is much criticism in the world about China's policy in Hong Kong and in dealing with the Uygurs minority. Is anything going to change?

Media reports do not necessarily tell the truth. Cameras and keyboards are objective, but people using them have their minds.

For instance, in Xinjiang, there are no ethnic, religious or human rights issues. Instead, we have terrorism and extremism challenges to tackle. By taking the measures according to laws, we successfully contained violence and terrorism and ensured people of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang enjoy a peaceful and harmonious life. Since 2018, thousands of diplomats, international organization officials and journalists, including from Israel Hayom, have visited Xinjiang and seen with their own eyes the remarkable achievements of the counter-terrorism and de-radicalization efforts.

Regarding Hong Kong, it is purely China’s domestic affairs. Any foreign government, organization or individual are not entitled to interfere. Since its return in 1997, Hong Kong residents’ rights and freedoms have been fully safeguarded by laws. This is a recognized fact.

China’s policies of counter-extremism and de-radicalization, as well as the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” , are all well established. No modification needs to be made just because there are some biased opinions or erroneous convictions about China. Any attempts to interfere in China’s internal affairs or any political scheming to smear China are doomed to fail. As the Chinese saying goes, “seeing is believing”. I believe a tour of China is the best way to have a real understanding of China.

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