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Israeli President Shimon Peres gives an interview to Chinese press
2014-04-08 17:31

Before Israeli President Shimon Peres left for a state visit to China, he gave an interview to Chinese press at Persident's Office. The transcription is as follows:

Reporter: Mr. President, thank you for taking the time and giving the media this opportunity to interview you.

President: Thank you.

Reporter: I would like to ask you two questions on Israel-China relations. China and Israel established diplomatic relations 22 years ago, and have since then enjoyed steady development. Mr. President what do you think about the current state of China-Israel relations, and do you have any proposals for China and Israel to further strengthen their cooperation and relations. And my second question is about your upcoming visit to China. What's your purpose and expectations for this visit?

President: Well, let me start by saying that our relations begin with a very profound admiration of Israel to China, because of her ancient culture, and because of her dynamic development. I think maybe the escape of China from poverty on one hand, and the takeoff of China to a new height of economy is one of the greatest positive events that happened in history. It never happened on such a size or such a space, at such a speed. There were times the whole world population was only two billion people, now it's seven billion. But never in history ever happened that billions of people will take their fortune in their hands, and without foreign aid, to do things, unite themselves, because it's very hard to keep a few billion people together, and ascend to an unmatched, unbelievable height. It was done in two stages: the first was to save China from poverty, and now the second is to promote China to the first rank of human development by their new leadership.

Well we loved the two, we are also an ancient people, we are small, but in numbers of years we are quite close. We are smaller also as a country, but we are also trying to live on the highest level of science and development. Now before I shall go further, I shall… I want to say something, and that will be all of my purpose. Look, in the Middle East there 350 million people, Arabs. Their greatest tragedy is poverty, unemployment, lack of freedom, lack of education, until now they tried to save themselves by getting foreign aid, whether money or arms, it didn't fly.

China can do a great service to the Middle East, if you could explain to the Middle East how the Middle East can save itself, with its own hand, their own countries, not by dollars and not by Rubles, but really mobilizing the people to come together and escape the poverty and try to elevate themselves to new technologies.

I highly recommend that China will publish a document: the way from poverty to height, to the most modern height. You know, we're talking about peace and negotiations; maybe it's more important to negotiate poverty than to negotiate peace. If you save poverty you can really go to peace, because poverty and unemployment are also the producers of terror and violence. Time has come that China will explain what one may call either a China Dream or a China Way from poverty to dignity, from poverty to prosperity. That will be one of my topics, that I'm going to discuss, number one, as far as I am concerned, and also clearly the admiration of Israel for such a historic event, as I have described it.

The second point which I want to emphasize is this, hi-tech was really concentrated on two issues, and ignored a little bit two other issues. The two issues where hi-tech was extremely successful is in the IT, in the domain of communication. The domain of communication is really fantastic, the achievements are unbelievable. The second domain is entertainment, music and dancing and movies, everything, unbelievable. And by the way, maybe the entertainment unites the world today more than anything else. We sing all of us the same songs, we dance all of us the same way, it's unbelievable. But we have ignored two things, which are very important: one is health and the other is education. I think time has come now to invest all of our talents and research in those two domains: health and education.

You know, if you will have health, you won't spend so much money on hospitals, on sick people, on sick children. Preventing illness is cheaper than curing maladies. And here I think China was very much interested in the modern economy, in modern agriculture of Israel. I'm going to suggest some of the modern medicine to China. I think Israel is very advanced in it, not only in our own eyes, but also in the eyes of many companies. There are 250 research centers of the largest companies in the world here in Israel, and we would like to develop a scientific relation in domain of medicine, as we did in the domain of agriculture. And then comes also education, we have some new ideas about education that we are ready to share as much as China will be interested in them. But I noticed that the new leadership, they really want to learn from every country they can learn from, they're open-minded, and we shall be more than delighted to offer what we have in those two domains.

So to summarize: make peace, help us to make peace in the Middle East, by helping the people to escape poverty; secondly, make people healthier and they will have more money for social needs and more money for education; and then, you can improve education. Clearly I think we shall discuss all other issues of the world and so on, but I'm coming from a country with the deepest feelings to China, and I'm not coming in any commercial journey, I'm not going to buy or to sell. I really would like to bring ideas, because ideas are producing money, not money is producing ideas.        


In recent years we have seen the fast growth of trade, over $10 billion. What kind of policies is the Israeli government adopting to attract more Chinese companies and encourage Israeli companies to export to China?


There is already very impressive beginning of trade but recently we've had many Chinese groups who came here, to invest, to build centers of research. We welcome it full heartedly, the difference in size between China and Israel is also the difference in the nature of our economies. We are too small to become an industrial country so we can only live off research. China is large enough to have the most advanced research and at the same time to produce. Our relations should be really where we are strong, namely in research. We shall be more than happy to participate.

I think for example in the coming 10 years the greatest emphasis will be research of the brain. The brain is the most illustrious instrument that exists, we have it on our shoulders. The brain enables us to produce artificial brains, artificial intelligence but it doesn't permit us to understand how our own brain functions. You wake up someone decided and you don't know who or why. People are blind to themselves, strangers to themselves. To enable us to affect our own decisions we have to understand the brain better. The moment we understand the brain people will have to make a choice. If you have to make a choice between being happy and unhappy, what will you choose? Clearly to be happy. That will change behavior all over the world.

There are five different areas of research of the brain, Israel is the most advanced in one of them and that is the relation, the interface, between the computer and the brain. The computer is fast, precise and foolish. The man is slow, imprecise but intelligent. We want to match the two of them and create something that will have more intelligence and more precision. We are on our way. We can use an electrode on the brain, we overcame several illnesses like Parkinson. Actually when I'm asking myself when did civilization start, with a very primitive instrument called the mirror. Before the mirror people didn't comb their hair or cut their nails. You have a mirror and everyone does it, without governments, without orders. IF we shall have a mirror to our brain we shall become extremely sophisticated and I think it will change the face of our lives. I think it will happen within 10 years.


I think there will be 3 major efforts. One of the governments to run domestic affairs, the second of global companies to run innovation and science and the third the individual who will run his own brain. Otherwise it will be hard to overcome terror because terrorists are crazy and maybe we can cure them. All of this we will be more than glad to cooperate with China.


Israel is a start-up nation and China also attaches great importance to science and innovation. What kind of role could Israel play to help china build an innovative country?


I have some suggestions, one of them what we are doing is to have a junior start-up effort. Until now all the countries which were very large and needed a lot of money. What is happening in Israel and I suggest it for China and be glad to help, we have small high-tech companies. Two or three students are coming together at university and building their own company, they don't need much money. They need a loan and a floor. We have already 30,000 companies like that with 60,000 students. Many of them are already successful because innovation is not just a matter of size, it's a matter of talent. In addition to the start-up nation I recommend a junior start-up nation done by universities and China can have millions of them and then the ones that are coming are working day and night.

The second suggestion is the military. I don't know the size of the Chinese army but we have a small army, our army is small but larger than Israel proportionally because we have to confront our enemies not ourselves. The army is becoming based on technology, it is now also partly a university. To enable every solider to get an academic education, the first one is a BA, Bachelor of Arts. In previous time to graduate with a BA you needed 1300 lessons which took two or three years. Today you have a new system which enables you to get the BA with only 600 hours. What we're doing is before we mobilize the young men and women we prepare them for university, before they go into the service they will already have an academic title. It will help them in the army, it will help the army to have educated soldiers and after their service they don't need to go again to the university. Today a boy in Israel serves for 3 years, once he's through he has to go to university for 3 years and by then he may have a family and its hard so we do it the other way round.

Then the most important thing in having a start-up nation is not just to be up to date but to be up to tomorrow, try and guess what will be the next step ahead of time. There is now a system that enables a country, including China, to predict what may happen. We have a tremendous amount of information, of data and we don't know what to do with it. We have to pick up one question and concentrate all the data around it and then we will be able to answer the question.

The fourth point is in education. Today the school can play a partial role but you can bring education to every house. Today almost every youngster has a telephone or a tablet, China is one of the best producers of it. Today in America a computer smartphone costs $100, China is producing them for $20. Everybody has one and you can make the students, even the whole family, listen to lectures given to millions of people. I just got the Guinness Record because I taught 10,000 students in one time,  that was the largest number until now. You could do it very easily. Basically we have to make school a happy place so that students will feel at home and at unease rather than under unnecessary tension.

I suggest something else in addition, all the young people are ready made people, very educated, they are intelligence and are up to date. But it's extremely difficult to be young, it's very expensive. To be young you have to compete, you have to dress better, better food costs money, better lodging costs money and where can the student get the money from. I suggest every student from 14/15 will work two hours a day in a high-tech company. The effect is industries will like to have them because they have fresh eyes. The students will learn not only work and will have some money for themselves. On the other side I suggest grown-ups work only 6 hours a day and student 2 hours a day. So the young will work a little bit and the old will learn a little bit because you have to learn all the time. The questions don't change, the answers change. So I suggest a different structure for how to use our time.

Those are some of the ideas. The Chinese are a very talented people, very industrious and I think that like us they love to learn. So take advantage of it. Take the good things that you have in your character and use them, don't fall victim to the shortages and the bad things.


Peace talks are facing severe challenges because Israel delayed the release of the 4th batch of prisoners and Palestinian leaders have already submitted applications to join international organizations. How do you judge the situation and what do you think both sides should do at this moment?


You know, I spent most of my time in negotiations so I have an idea what negotiations are. Condition number one is to do it discreetly because you have to give not only to take and when it comes to your own people they say yes, we want peace, yes we are willing to pay a price. Then they say, why do you pay so much? Why do you trust so much? It's very hard to explain, on both sides. So peace must be done without publication. I think what brought us here was that it became public and instead of negotiating it became a competition of speeches and when you make speeches you are becoming a little bit much  because everyone wants to convince his own people. I say there are two things you have to do in life with your eyes closed a little bit, one is love an one is peace. If you open your eyes it will be very difficult to fall in love, if you open your eyes it is very difficult to make peace. You have to give room for imagination and hope. I hope the negotiations will resume but this time discreetly.

We already made peace with two Arab countries and the negotiations were quiet; one was with Egypt and the second with Jordan and it works beautifully to this day. We started with the Palestinians too, discreetly. The moment it has exploded the problems began. We all need peace, we don't have a better alternative, we need two states, it's clear. But when you negotiate let's not put it to critical eyes of different people who might exaggerate the difficulties and underrate the achievements. I think this is the main lesson.


People to people exchanges need more people to people, more Chinese students and more Israeli students to China and more cultural exchanges, more tourists. Does Israel have plan to increase people to people with China?


I agree that in order to achieve peace you need governments and peoples to peoples because today every person is his own connection. With our neighbors we've opened an internet page where young people can speak to other young people without governments, without formal connections. They'll do it in many ways. We'd like to send our children to China, we're not as many as you are. We would like to have Chinese youngsters coming here. And we would like to enlarge the opportunities to fly.

There is very profound friendship between our two countries and we would like very much to enhance and spread it. The right time is to start when you are young. If you make friends as a young man you have a friendship for a long time, if you make friendship with old men you don't have so much time. So we'd like to see student exchanges, it's a good idea.

I think that basically when I think about the future. In my judgment it should be that every person should be a host and a guest. A host to people who come from other countries and a guest in other countries.


Any activities with science and tech during your visit to China? What are you most looking forward to?


Clearly I'm looking forward to meeting with the leaders and going into detail. I'm looking forward to a lecture at a university to speak to students. I did it during my first visit. I visited China in 1993, the first time and I came with the idea of agriculture, that we would build the first model farm. I hope we shall do the same this time in the field of health. I'd also like to meet scientists because when I became president I devoted a great deal of time to science. Nanotechnology was introduced by me and now I'm also trying to encourage the brain research and am engaged with it. We'll also have contacts with universities and institutions.

Science cannot be conquered by armies, science can only be learned by people. Science, not like land, doesn't have any borders and limitations. May I say that in general science changed the nature of democracy. Until now the nature of democracy was that every person has the right to be equal, modern democracy says every person has the equal right to be different. America is a different America. I don't think President Obama changed America, I think a changed America elected President Obama.

It was published in the paper today that it's the first time in many years that no single American person was killed in a war, after the all the killing and all the wars there have been more victims than victories. The cost of victory is so expensive so it's better to have more civil victories and less military ones.


We heard that you opened a new account on Sina-Weibo. We know you also have Facebook and Twitter. Why did you decide to use those tools and what are the advantages?


I think today people are reading less and watching more. There was an age of books and now it's an age of screens. I publish books too, I just published one, but the youngsters read less and watch more so I want to speak to them and get their reactions. We're in daily contact, I get thousands of questions. We've shifted from the priority of books to the priority of screens.


So you adapt yourself?


Oh yes, otherwise no-one will listen.


About the Sina-Weibo, what kind of content will Chinese see on your page?


First of all I shall try to relate to what they ask, I am not going to sell anything, I'm going to answer questions and I'd like also to put questions so it will be a real dialogue, I'm not going to lecture. We can share ideas. That's a great privilege.

Today a leader should understand that he doesn't have to rule, he needs to serve. Leaders are servants not rulers. Because I found out that goodwill is sometimes more important than strong hands. I was for 60 years in government in various capacities. Now I'm 7 years president and I'm asking myself what is the difference? When I was PM I gave orders and there were struggles between ministers and departments. I spent much time pacifying it. Now I'm president so I don't have to give orders but people do willing what I suggest because they know I don't have any personal ambitions. Previously they would question, today when I suggest they volunteer gladly. You have more volunteers than disciplined persons so lets make goodwill a style of relations. For that you need a permanent dialogue. You listen to the people and not try to tell them what is right. China has it, China governments are very modest they don't have the same cult of personality like it was in Russia or America at times. Be modest and like to serve, it's the best way to lead. In my 7 years as president I never heard the word no and not because people were afraid but because they saw I was trying to answer the people. Better to hang on goodwill than use rough power.

I'm always surprised when I come to a school. Young children gladly volunteer, try to discipline them and its difficult.


You will leave office in July, do you have any plans for after you leave?


Oh yes, I'm going to build relations with our neighbors. We will enable them to take advantage of what we've learnt. For example the first thing is to have a clinic, open, to every person in the Middle East that can call us up and say I have trouble here or there. We shall analyse, suggest the right medicine, the right doctor. It shall all be done free, no charge, and we shall not ask anybody who they are. Whoever wants. I believe health is the best diplomacy, if you can help a person that's the greatest contribution person to person.

We started with agriculture and now we're building the second floor and that is medical agriculture. We think you can have all the medicine in fruits and vegetables. Until now modern medicine is very expensive but if you grow it then it can be available to many others.

I'm going to deal with education, health and people-to-people without governments, with companies based on goodwill. I haven't started it because while I'm president I can't but so far the response is unbelievable including from Chinese companies. Delegation from Hong Kong came to listen.


Question inaudible.


In order that Israel will be at her best she needs her neighbors to be at their best, we cannot be an island in a sea which is poor or suffering. So my emphasis will be not just to handle the island but also the sea around us and to offer to whom ever wants. Being a president is nice but its like a golden cage, if you like gold stay in the cage but if you want to fly then you need to leave. I want to fly. The best title a man can have is his name, not a title.

If I can save the life on one child then for me it means much more than to receive an honor guard or something.

I'm not the youngest man in the world but I think you are as young as you dream, not as your age so keep dreaming to keep young.

To stay young you have to have discipline, there is nothing wiser than to be honest, you'll remain young if you remain honest. Secondly I am a believer, I never stopped believing even when times are difficult. People say I'm an optimist and I say yes. Optimists and pessimists are dying the same way but they live differently so why I should spend my life as a pessimist when I can spend it as an optimist.

You also must really care for your fellow man, you can be as great as the cause you serve and you can be as small as the ego you have. If you want to escape your own ego better try to serve more people in more ways. You will enjoy it.

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