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|Jackie Eldan Consul General of Shanghai on business and diplomacy|
Jackie Eldan is the current Consul General of Israel in Shanghai. He worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Spain, Finland and Ecuador before his got his four-year appointment, which he started in August 2008. Eldan studied sociology and political science at Hebrew University and holds a Masters in Public Administration from Tel Aviv University.
His expertise is in economic and commercial affairs and this made him the perfect candidate to go to Shanghai. “Shanghai is considered a most important posting for the Ministry in terms of commercial and economic trade between the countries. Shanghai is considered a flagship in terms of economic work in the Ministry.” He commented.
Eldan has an interesting connection to Shanghai. “Ohel Rachel Synagogue was built by Sir Jacob Elias Sassoon. My name is Jacob Elias, which was then changed to Eldan in Hebrew.” When he was nominated for the post, the elders in his family asked him to do everything in his power to see that Ohel Rachel would reopen it’s doors as a synagogue. A couple of months ago, Eldan delivered on the request.
His Consulate delegates more than 90% of its efforts to promote commerce between Israel in China and to promote Israeli export to the four provinces they deal with which are Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui.
They do not operate as a typical diplomatic entity, but rather more like a business development and legal firm. They receive average of 30 emails a month from companies and entities in Israel that are looking at China as a possibility to do business. The Consulate then helps them with every step along the way as an obstacle remover.
“We try to be very well connected to the different administrations in these four provinces and when a company is in need we don’t hesitate, we go hand and hand to the authorities. Sometimes these benefits make a difference between just holding their businesses head over water or being profitable within the span of two or three years.”
They also support these activities through different exhibits, mainly in the areas of hitech, semiconductors, communications, agricultural technology, pharmaceutics, diamonds and others.
“And of course we are a centre for information and activities for the Israeli and Jewish community of Shanghai. We do a lot of cultural activities and we try to establish a kind of feeling that it is one big family.”
Eldan has broken ground and at the end of 2009, his team managed to get a Chinese company buy 30% of a start-up in Israel. This was in the clean and solar energy field. “It is our pride and joy because we hope that this will be the kind of bridge that will bring more and more important Chinese companies to Israel.”
Israel entered into diplomatic relations with China only 18 years ago. “Today the trade is worth about US$6 billion a year where China sells to Israel about two thirds of these US$6 billion and Israel sells one third.”
In the last four years the growth rate has been of about US$1 billion per year. Considering the level of business, Eldan explained that during the World Expo they set up a meeting with Israel’s Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and the world’s largest bank ICBC to see if one of Israeli’s banks would open a branch in China. “The process has started and we are doing the work necessary. We will have delegations from both sides visiting. We hope to materialise it in the following months.”
For Eldan, “Israel and China are a match made in heaven. Israel is a very small country, it has no resources, no manpower, no market, so the only thing we can do is invent. We have a lot of start-ups and brilliant ideas that don’t materialise because they lack finance or someone to invest and take them up to the shelves. China is the exact opposite. It has a huge market, a lot of manpower, resources, capabilities and great hunger to become not only the world’s biggest manufacturer, but also an inventor and developer. If we combine the Israeli capabilities with these giant and medium size companies in China, we will be on the shelf together with them and we will forge and influence tomorrow’s products in any given field. The future will be ours together, China and Israel. So our next challenge is to get them to open research and development centres in Israel.”
Eldan has established a research and development fund between Israel and Jiangsu that will finance research for products, if an Israeli and Jiangsu company come together to present their proposal. “The fund allows from each side up to US$10 million a year for 10 years. So together it comes to US$200 million dollars that will help companies finance the most difficult part, which is the research.”
Apart from the routine the Consulate has taken the Expo as a platform to promote its stance on the following:
• China is very important to Israel and being part of Expo was a signal
The pavilion had the intention of raising awareness of Israel and influence public opinion. The pavilion is currently hosting about 15,000 visitors a day and they expect that by the end of the Expo they will have reached 3.5 million visitors. Relationship building or guanxi is key in China. “This process is a combined effort hat started with my predeces-ors and will continue with my successors and it is a combined ffort with the Beijing Embassy nd all the consulates.” For Eldan guanxi is basic diplomacy. We map the leadership, we map the points of strength and we approach using guanxi.”
His Consulate spends a lot of time preparing delegations to head to Israel and they have also reated training programmes in different subjects for officials in he region. “We go to Israel and ailor-build a course for them nd share the knowledge. This s highly appreciated here and his translates into real guanxi. n a time of need when we request something we can always find a friend that will be more han willing to assist.”
On a personal level Eldan hared his views on his Shanghai experience so far. “I feel ortunate and privileged. When my family came here it was plug-and-play. We immediately elt at home, it was amazing. We did not go through culture hock. The first month I still did not have my diplomatic lisense so I could not drive, so we walked all around Shanghai and discovered it. This continues up o today. We love the food, the hythm of this city, the combination of the past and future. You can walk one street and be n the 19 century and then turn ight and be in the 22 century. We’re enjoying every moment.”
Eldan is married to Ma-ibel, who he met during his ime in Ecuador, and they have wo children living with them n Shanghai, Noam and Yoav. We are all very much enjoying he Chinese experience and the Shanghai experience.”
Interviewed by Jessica Zwaiman Lerner
(Issue July/August 2010)