Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong followed her meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Monday, where she signed a bilateral cooperation agreement, with a stop in Jerusalem's Mount Scopus to take part in the opening of Hebrew University's new Confucius Institute.
Yandong's visit to the campus, accompanied by a delegation of senior ministers and university presidents, highlights the recently accelerating ties between Israel and China. In inaugurating the new institute she took those connections a step further in the fields of academics and cultural ties.
The Confucius Institute aims to promote academic research on Chinese culture and history, while providing seminars to the wider public and enhancing understanding between Israelis and Chinese.
Prof. Menahem Ben-Sasson, president of Hebrew University, said the new institute connects the university to a "network of 400 such Institutes around the world. ....Most of all, it creates a future of relations between countries and institutes of higher education and science."
Yandong noted the importance of the university, remarking "the Hebrew University is a symbol of the renaissance of the Jewish people in its original land. ...You have cultivated a galaxy of excellent people, including 8 Nobel laureates.”
"I believe (the Institute) will play an important role in promoting the friendly ties between our two countries," Yandong added. "I believe this Confucius Institute will prove to be the best one around the world."
At the ceremony, Yandong announced several gifts she brought on behalf of the Confucius Institutes headquarters in China, including invitations to a summer program for Israeli students to learn in China, over 3,000 Chinese-language materials to the new institute, and a pledge to send 5,000 Chinese students to study in Israel, while providing scholarships for Israelis students to learn in China over the next five years.
Pre-recorded greetings by Netanyahu and Hebrew University's Prof. Robert J. (Yisrael) Aumann, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Economics, were shown at the ceremony, which culminated in Israeli and Chinese poetry, song and dance.
Hebrew University's Asian Studies Department has more than doubled its number of students in recent years, with roughly 300 students enrolled in the program.
An increasing number of Chinese students has likewise come to the university, thanks to scholarships for Chinese students by Israel's Council for Higher Education (CHE) and university supporters. Chinese business leader and Hebrew University Governor Zhao Hanqing has been instrumental in promoting the scholarships.