As part of the ongoing efforts to enhance Sino-Israel relations, a delegation of 10 prominent Chinese academic leaders and officials is visiting Israel this week for intensive dialogue and briefings with their Israeli counterparts in government, academia and policy-making circles. The program is the result of a partnership between the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and Project Interchange, in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Led by Professor Yiyi Chen, of Berkeley, Peking University and Shanghai Jiao Tong University, the study tour is intended to strengthen bilateral ties, with a special focus on Israeli strategic affairs, the peace process, Iran and Israel study programs in China.
"I'm quite impressed by the frank insight into Israel and the Middle East that we do not normally get through the global media,” said Professor Chen. “Our diverse group of Chinese scholars and government advisors looks forward to forging personal connections with our Israeli counterparts that may lead to even more robust academic and government exchanges between Israel and China. By strengthening this relationship, the Middle East in general can benefit."
This mission is the culmination of an intensive immersion seminar in Shanghai in late December, when 35 Chinese policymakers, government advisors and academics met with leading Israeli scholars to explore Israeli politics, history and culture, under the auspices of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.
“The seminar offered a forum for an open, frank conversation about important issues of mutual interest for China and Israel,” said Sanford R. (“Sandy”) Cardin, President of the Schusterman Family Foundation. “It was an especially important exchange because the people present have a direct hand in shaping Chinese policy toward the Middle East.”
Deepened cultural ties
The study tour portion of the program brings this prominent Chinese delegation to Israel to explore areas for future collaboration and potential joint initiatives. The trip includes meetings with influential figures across the political and social spectrum, including Israeli, Palestinian and Israeli Arab leaders. In addition to senior-level meetings with their counterparts at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the delegation will traverse much of Israel, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Northern border and the Dead Sea for a first-hand look at Israel “beyond-the-headlines.”
“Project Interchange is tremendously pleased to host this delegation of prominent officials and academic leaders from China and to partner with the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation to make it possible,” said Sam Witkin, Executive Director of Project Interchange, co-sponsor and organizer of the trip. “These officials represent a diverse set of academic institutions from across China, but they share a common interest in building bridges between China and Israel in academia, high-tech innovation and other important bilateral relations. As these are key priorities for Israel as well, we hope participants will return home with a better sense of the similarities between their communities and Israel.”
The Schusterman Family Foundation first became involved in efforts to enhance Sino-Israel relations in 2009 by sponsoring two seminars, one at Peking University and one at Shandong University, for more than 130 senior academics, journalists and think tank scholars. Leading Israeli professors joined both seminars, marking the first opportunity for Chinese scholars of Israel, the Middle East and Judaism to communicate and engage with Israeli scholars.
These contacts bore important fruit. After the 2009 seminars:
- The Peking University Academic Committee approved and seed-funded an Institute for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and elevated the status of the Hebrew Language program;
- Shandong University signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Tel Aviv University to establish an exchange program;
- An unprecedented compilation of academic articles on contemporary Israeli politics, Zionist history and Israeli society was published in Chinese.
While much progress has been made in Sino-Israel relations since 1992 when the two countries established diplomatic ties, much work remains to strengthen the bilateral relationship, which the Chinese still view as part of the overarching Sino-American relationship. Indeed, despite interest in Jewish culture, Middle East policy and even Hebrew language, few Chinese scholars have ever traveled to Israel, and Israel is rarely, if ever, the explicit subject of scholarly research. This trip to Israel is a natural extension of the Schusterman Foundation’s ongoing relationship with Project Interchange, whose outstanding seminars in Israel for influential American leaders the Foundation has long supported.
The Schusterman Foundation and Project Interchange believe that by establishing and expanding quality Israel-related scholarship in this important and growing region of the world, it will open the door to deepened cultural ties and mutual appreciation between the Chinese and Jewish people, as well as an enhanced bilateral relationship between China and Israel.
“The American Jewish community has a pivotal role to play in strengthening Sino-Israeli relations,” said Lynn Schusterman, Chair of the Schusterman Family Foundation. “It is our hope that more of our partners and colleagues will see the value in these cross-cultural conversations and learning exchanges and will join us in supporting further opportunities.”
The seminar in Israel will run through January 21, 2011.
- Follow Ynetnews on Facebook