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    A bridge built with Israeli hands

    Haikou’s mangrove forests contribute much to the city’s ecosystem. XU KAIDI / FOR CHINA DAILY

    Haikou’s mangrove forests contribute much to the city’s ecosystem. XU KAIDI / FOR CHINA DAILY

    Yuval Golan is one of the few Jewish settlers in Haikou, capital of Hainan province. He speaks fluent Chinese and even learned the Hainanese dialect.

    The 30-year-old Israeli said he has found great business in Haikou.

    Golan visited China for the first time in 2009 to attend his brother’s wedding in Beijing. Interested in the Chinese culture, he resigned from his job at the Israeli embassy in The Hague the next year to study Chinese in Haikou.

    He chose Haikou because there were few foreigners so he could concentrate on learning Chinese, communicate with the locals and integrate into the Chinese society.

    After studying for two months in 2011 and for another month in 2012, he settled down in Haikou and opened up the consultation firm Unique 1 Asia Co. Ltd. in 2013 on Qilou Old Street, a tourist attraction in Haikou that features many arcade houses built by overseas Chinese returning from Southeast Asia more than a century ago.

    “Some friends suggested that the office should be in the city center with more convenient transportation, but I did not think so,” Golan said.

    “The site at Qilou Old Street is not an office, but a book cafe and a cultural salon. We may find more functions in the future.”

    The company provides tailor-made services and solutions to government agencies, companies and organizations in the sectors of agriculture, culture events, investment marketing, media and technology.

    Golan suggested Haikou focus more on cultural elements to help it become an international tourism island, a process that would create opportunities for his company.

    Qilou Old Street features many arcade houses built by overseas Chinese. HUANG YIMING / CHINA DAILY

    Qilou Old Street features many arcade houses built by overseas Chinese. HUANG YIMING / CHINA DAILY

    He said Hainan has high-end hotels, beautiful scenery and cuisine, and needs to develop a unique culture and entertainment attractions to draw in visitors.

    He added that his company plans activities to attract foreign travelers, including an electronic music festival in Haikou or Sanya by inviting DJs from around the world.

    “Haikou has a wonderful environment, with clean air, good climate and no pollution,” said Golan, who added that people can do business anywhere in the internet era and that many flights linking Haikou and other Chinese and international cities have made Haikou a city of convenience.

    But Golan said the agricultural industry in Hainan has yet to make much advancements, which his company is working to help by focusing on high-tech agriculture.

    He has established Sino-Israeli agricultural cooperation by inviting farming experts from Israel to Hainan and by running a Sino-Israeli demonstration farms in Fujian, Jiangsu provinces and Beijing in partnership with some of Israel’s leading agricultural companies.

    With the help of Golan and his company, Haikou has become a sister city of Israel’s Modi’in-Maccabim-Re’ut in 2013.

    The company organized the Sino-Israeli Culture event in Haikou in November 2014, which included exhibitions of the two countries’ histories, culture, calligraphy and photography. The weeklong event also featured Israeli movies.

    The company also organized two Sino-Israeli forums on the development of high-tech industrial zones in October last year, during which companies from both countries signed contracts on seven projects.

    In March 2014 Golan became the first foreigner appointed by the government to be a council member of the Hainan Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

    In September that year, he was granted the Friendship Coconut Award, the highest award by the government of Hainan to a foreign expert in the province for supporting the development of the island.