Soon after leaving school, in 1946 two determined nineteen-year old women, raised on a diet of music, were offered life-changing opportunities to study opera singing in Milan. When my late mother [Kathryn O’Reilly, nee Byrne http://wp.me/p15Yzr-k7] asked her brothers for the £200 she needed to fund her studies they took the wind out of her sail, fretting over the amorous intentions of Italian men and the dangers of a young woman travelling to a newly formed Republic of Italy still numbed and severely damaged by war. Presumably, as was commonplace for a well brought up Irish woman at that time, she was expected to stay at home and wait for the ideal future husband to come along.
A pivotal moment for my mother, given that the second lady sold her pony and went on to become Ireland’s ‘Grande Dame’ of singing – singing alongside such talents as Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, and teaching nearly every major Irish singer to have come out of Ireland.
My mother and her lifelong “sister” friend Dr. Veronica Dunne (“Auntie Ronnie”) were born within a day of each other, Ronnie arriving on August 2nd 1927… 90 years ago.
Last night, the Dublin Choral Foundation in tribute presented a “Happy 90th Birthday, Ronnie” gala operatic concert at the National Concert Hall (NCH), featuring current and former students including opera stars Celine Byrne, Miriam Murphy, Tara Erraught, YoungWoo Kim and pianist John O’Conor.
As Simon Taylor, tribute host and CEO of the National Concert Hall, noted it was probably one of the greatest operatic celebrations ever witnessed at the NCH. A fitting tribute to Ireland’s most glamourous and outstanding music talent.
Where words come to nothing so music persuades. What a thrilling and emotional night it was, truly unforgettable. Happy Birthday Auntie Ronnie!
Urban blight, neglected and abandoned Georgian buildings, and poor quality streetscape have long bedevilled the character of Parnell Street East, which is just off the northeast end of Dublin‘s O’Connell Street, a street apparently forgotten by Dublin City Council planners.
Be that as it may, the presence of Asian supermarkets, hair salons, internet cafes, sidewalk fruit and vegetable stalls, noodle houses, and restaurants all with their own distinctive signage also testify to Parnell Street East’s organic development over the past 20 years as an ethnic precinct.
Indeed, in many ways the bustle of daily life on Parnell Street East, the focal point for the largest concentration of the Chinese immigrants living and working in Dublin, resembles a typical Chinese (mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong included) street. The shops and restaurants provide important social gathering places for the Chinese community, while Dublin’s discerning foodies are more and more drawn to its ever expanding rich diversity of authentic and delicious Chinese and Asian eateries.
This orientation as an ethic precinct adds up to a civic asset that could be capitalised upon to incite economic growth, tourism and opportunities for new immigrants. Hitherto, Dublin City Council has yet to recognise this ethnic area as a civic asset, which sets our capital city apart from other significant international cities, such as London, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Rome and Paris, all of which have distinguished multi-cultural Chinatown districts.
The completion of the Luas Cross City single track loop, with a Parnell Luas tram stop located in front of Marlborough House, will be an essential element in the regeneration of the precinct. It also presents Dublin City Council with a unique opportunity to build, following consultations with the Chinese and other local community stakeholders, on the ethnic character of the street by creating a vibrant district of local businesses and traders that consolidates the distinctive ethnic diversity of the precinct.
Plant more trees, consider making a space for an oriental style park or garden, play to the strengths of the street and its community. Above all talk to the residents who have reinvented Parnell Street East.
The photographs above depicting every day life on Parnell Street were shot over a two days period, March 4th and March 5th 2017 (Copyright @ Niall J. O’Reilly 2017)
Sights:The scorching heat, the pickets, the helicopter, the blank stares of bus loads of apprehensive People’s Liberation Army soldiers surrounded by Beijing’s irate mothers and fathers, the water tankers, the chuandan (pamphlets), the handwritten messages on the school noticeboard, real tears, fleeing, panic, emptiness, dry tears, bloated bodies. How many more?
Tastes: Dry, salty and bitter.
Time:Central Beijing –3.45pm Saturday June 3, 1989, the first time I heard the traumatising sounds of teargas canisters exploding all around me…
In terms of Ireland – China political and trade relations 2014 was a pivotal year. The following birds-eye view draws attention to the main breakthroughs as well as offering a hunch or two regarding how the kinship can be expected to develop into 2015.
Part 1: 2014 – The year that was
Part 2: 2015 – The year that will be
– Open Sesame
– Export opportunities
– Strategic sourcing
– Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
Accurate Group – China Market Makers
Part 1: 2014 -The year that was
– The year had barely commenced when China Investment Corp (CIC) and The National Pension Reserve Fund announced an investment of US$100 million in The China Ireland Technology Growth Capital Fund which is turn will invest in fast-growing Irish start-up technology companies trying to expand into China.
– Another subtle telltale sign of the improving relationship was the ChineseEmbassy in Dublin‘s anticipation of ” a need for increased facilities to carry out embassy, consular and state business“, as noted in the Irish Independent last February. It was around this time the Irish Government announced its intention to open a Consulate in Hong Kong.
– The first big dairyexport deal of the year was won by Northern Ireland‘s Dale Farm – whey protein, a deal which effectively pushed its annual exports to China up to £20 million a year.
– Chineseleasing company Bank of Communications Financial Leasing (JY Aviation) became the third Chinese aircraft leasing company to set up its European headquarters in Dublin..
– In March, Northern Ireland bus-maker Wrightbus of Ballymena won orders for more than 50 new buses in Hong Kong.
– While the photograph of President Higgins of Ireland being welcomed to China by President Xi Jinping in December 2014 represents the highest form of State engagement in diplomatic protocol, perhaps the most iconic image of the Ireland – China relationship in 2014 was the greening of China’s most important cultural icon, the Great Wall to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
– Meanwhile, the Bank of Ireland became the first bank in Ireland to offer business customers the facility to make payments in Chinese Yuan / RMB.
– H.E. Xu Jianguo was appointed Chinese ambassador to Ireland. Tellingly, his previous posting was as Chinese ambassador to New Zealand, the main conduit for dairy productimports into China (courtesy of a generous free trade agreement).
– However, the year wasn’t all about agriculture. Tencent, games industry giant and China’s largest and most used Internet service portal, chose Ireland’s Havok to deliver for its Iron Knight game dynamic battlefields, enhanced graphics, efficient character AI, more realistic animations and detailed destruction effects to offer players the most authentic fighting action possible. All-in-all, a huge milestone for Havok, the premier provider of interactive software and services for digital media creators in the games and entertainment industries.
– In May 30 Irish diary companies had products approved for export to China following stringent audits by Chinese authorities, a significant milestone for Ireland’s dairy industry.
– Also in May, then Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar leading a trade mission to China commented: “I think everyone accepts that sooner or later there will be direct flights between Ireland and China, most likely Dublin and Beijing...”
– …while a leading tourism survey in China observed that 62% of Chinese travellers were reasonably familiar with Ireland.
– Huawei Technologies, the leading Chinese multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services giant announced the establishment of a new R&D centre in Athlone.
– ChinaHR, the fast growing Asia-focused recruitment company owned by Leslie Buckley and Denis O’Brien, which employs 2,600 staff in 26 cities across China, was said to be mulling over plans to float in Hong Kong. There was also muted talk (but little substance) of a potential listing in Hong Kong by PCH International, which sells product development and supply chain management services – and is widely considered Ireland’s biggest exporter in China.
– On a serious note the Chinese sheep shearing team arrived in Ireland to compete for the first time in the World Sheep Shearing Championships. On a less serious note, Irish-American comedian Des Bishop wowed Chinese television audiences… in Chinese!
– H.E. Xu Jianguo, the new Chinese ambassador to Ireland, undertook a well-publicised pilgrimage to what Chinese officials consider to be Ireland’s Mecca – the Shannon Free Zone, following in the footsteps of Jiang Zemin’s 1980 trip to study the Shannon Free Zone model, which has since been adopted across China in the development of its hugely successful special economic zones.
– In June, Dublin Airport announced its intention to secure a direct air-link to China by mid-2016.
– June also saw a boost to Irish businesses as AIB Merchant Services enabled acceptance of the Chinese card UnionPay.
– During the same month a new visa to let Chinese tourists travel freely between Ireland and the UK was announced, a significant milestone for Irish tourism.
– Mr. Liu Yunshan, a leading member of the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China, was the most senior Chinese official to visit Ireland in 2014. He was accompanied by four ministers in a delegation of fifty-one officials. Since 2011 nearly thirty Chinese Ministers or Vice-Ministers have visited Ireland. Clearly, the Chinese leadership considers a strengthening of the ties between the two nations to be of benefit for China.
– In October it was announced that China is to open a consulate in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
– On the education front, Jan O’Sullivan, Minister for Education and Skills’s trade mission to China in late October was a fitting backdrop to a slew of positive news announcements:
– University College Dublin (UCD) opened an office in Beijing as Irish universities sought to step up their expansion into China. UCD estimated it has 1,000 alumni in China with over 100 based in Beijing.
– Trinity (TCD) announced a new Masters in Chinese Studies and the opening of the Trinity Centre for Asian Studies, which it says “aim to advance Chinese scholarship and to promote Ireland as a leading knowledge centre for pan-Asian language studies and research”.
– University of Limerick (UL) also signed deals with four Chinese institutions.
– In November, as the year drew to a close, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney led a major trade mission of 37 companies to China. He also had plenty of positive news to announce:
– Kerrygold unveiled a new milk product for Chinese market, under the Chinese trade mark “Jin Kai Li”.
– UCD, Irish company Richard Keenan & Co and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences joined forces to form the China-Ireland Dairy Science and Technology Centre with the goal of improving feeding efficiency, animal health and reduced environmental impact of dairy farming.
– Kerry Group launched a new Irish made infant nutrition product ‘Green Love’ for the China market. Produced at Kerry’s new €40 million facility in Charleville, Co. Cork. More importantly, 100 new jobs were created.
– Glanbia launched its Avonmore UHT milk brand in China.
– Richard Keenan & Co entered into a franchise partnership with Shanghai Shengmu Livestock Company, a €7 million deal to accelerate sales of Richard Keenan‘s mixer wagons across the Chinese market.
– Machinery company Samco, based in Adare, Co. Limerick, secured a purchase agreement with two companies based in Inner Mongolia, Northern China for their SAMCO maize planting machine and bio-degradable mulch film.
– Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), along with 12 Irish seafood companies, exhibiting to key buyers at the premier China Seafood Expo in Qingdao, highlighting boarfish in particular as a new viable product option.
– Irish mobile technology company Cubic Telecom signed a lucrative global agreement with China Unicom, to provide machine-to-machine (M2M) services to enterprise customers across mainland China and Hong Kong.
– Arthur Cox Listing Services acted as Listing Agent on the first Chinese transaction to list in Ireland, when China Petrochemical Corporation acted as guarantor for Sinopec Group Overseas Development (2013) Limited which listed its Dollar and Euro Senior Notes on the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE).
– Other notable deals for the island included: AB Pneumatics, a Lisburn Northern Ireland-based manufacturer of air springs for vehicle seating, won new business to supply £600,000 (€766,000) a year of equipment to Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) in Shanghai; Antrim-based Fastank won a deal to supply portable liquid storage systems for environmental clean-up operations at a major chemical plant in Shanghai; while BI Electrical, a specialist in electrical engineering services, has signed a £20 million (€25.5 million) China agreement with Keenshine in Shanghai.
– In December a team of Chinese veterinary inspectors visited Ireland to officially inspected Irish beef slaughtering and processing facilities. Irish beef producers are competing with Canadian and USA beef producers to gain China export approval. For Ireland to be the first EU member to have its beef approved for export to China would be major coup.
– The year ended on a high note with President Higgins of Ireland’s historic state visit to Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou, during which it was announced that President Xi Jinping of China had accepted an invitation to visit Ireland. (For additional insight into President Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit to China click the following url: http://wp.me/p15Yzr-182)
Part 2: 2015 – The year that will be?
The one certainty in the relationship is that in the run-up to President Xi Jinping‘s return trip to Ireland, which is more likely to happen in 2016 (although with the next Irish general election expected to take place no later than 3 April 2016, the Irish Government will be pushing for President Xi Jinping to make undertake his State Visit to Ireland during the latter part of 2015) the political, economic and cultural relationship can only grow stronger. The one vulnerability is the transient Chinese economy, which although experiencing an extended period of volatility is unlikely to go off the rails.
So soon after the close of such a vibrant year in Ireland – China relations, any talk of China’s massive appetite for Ireland’s baby formula, beef, pork suddenly metamorphosing into becoming a major cash cow at this point, is greatly overstated.
Every country trading with China wants a piece of the action, and in the food and drink sector competition is set to grow in intensity. For instance, Chile recently started exporting live cattle to China, while Australia recently concluded a free trade agreement with China that will give its exporters preferential pricing similar to that already enjoyed by New Zealand exporters.
It is highly probable that 2015 will see Irish beef producers benefit from the strengthened political bond by having their produce approved for export to China. Moreover, the formal announcement of a direct air-link and a significant rise in the numbers of tourists visiting Ireland are also highly likely.
Relative to the overall size of the China market, for Irish businesses in search of China market opportunities, we would also beat the drum for:
Construction Products and Technology;
Food Technology and Ingredients;
Healthcare and Hygiene Solutions;
Industrial Components (OEM suppliers), Life Sciences, Medical Devices (class I and II);
While in the B2C space, where domestic consumption is creating opportunities for foreign brands to sell products in China, the sectors we would make a pitch for include:
Foods and functional foods sold through grocery retail, health stores and on-line.
OTC and other products, e.g. baby products, consumer medical devices and aids, cosmetics, etc. that are sold through pharmacies, parapharmacies, health stores and on-line;
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
In addition, we are of the opinion that the time is ripe for a significant FDI from China, and in this regard two words come to mind: ‘Open Sesame’
Driven out of necessity, Hangzhou-based E-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group – arguably the world’s largest online and mobile company – is activelyplotting its expansion to become a truly global company. Investments in Europe and the USA beckon. In this regard, we would be inclined to think the December visit by President Higgins and Minister of Finance Michael Noonan to Alibaba‘s headquarters in Hangzhou would have been quite effective in putting the squeeze on Jack Ma, Founder and Chairman, Alibaba Group, in considering Ireland as a possible location for further European expansion, bearing in mind that Alibaba already has an office in London’s Canary Wharf. (For additional insight into President Higgins’s visit to Hangzhou click the following url: http://wp.me/p15Yzr-18c)
Given the extensive publicity that usually accompanies a China market breakthrough for an Irish exporter, it is easy to overlook the fact that the Ireland – China trading relationship is two-way.
Long known for manufacturing cheap products, over the past few years rising labour and real estate costs, have forced Chinese manufacturers to move up the value stream. Concurrently, an unrelenting series of tainted product scandals have generated a multitude of exacting government decreed benchmark quality standards. The ensuing marked improvement in product and food safety standards represents an economic transformation that is already rekindling China’s export competitiveness. By its very nature, we foresee Irish businesses increasingly focusing on China for strategic sourcing options, which over the course of the year will gradually eat into Ireland’s trade surplus with China.
Accurate Group – China Market Makers
“Ireland is a long way away and Chinese people like to see a presence here. The first advice that we give to Irish companies coming to China is that they need to commit to the market. They are not going to come in and make a quick buck.”
The only way to succeed in China is to be aware and prepared – and to be on the ground. With this vital rule of thumb in mind, in 2014 Accurate Group, which is based in Hangzhou and Shanghai, was directly involved in developing China trade worth up to €4 million for Ireland’s food and drink sectors.
– By Niall O’Reilly
Niall O’Reilly is the Managing Director of Accurate Group, China Market Makers, and Director for China, Irish Exporters Association, has been based in Hangzhou since 2007.
Why President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit includes the dynamic metropolis of Hangzhou.
The most beautiful city in China
In the 13th century Marco Polo is said to have described Hangzhou, which is situated in east China along the Qiantang River, as “the city of heaven, the most magnificent in the world”.
While many of the world’s metropolises can also be portrayed as magnificent, Hangzhou, the largest city in Zhejiang province, and one of China’s seven ancient capitals, is beyond doubt one of China’s most eye-catching and affluent cities.
With a GDP per capita of over €12,200 and a population of 8.8 million people, Hangzhou is home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
One of the most picturesque wonders of China, the West Lake Cultural Landscape of Hangzhou, comprising the tranquil West Lake and the hills surrounding its three sides, has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century. It comprises numerous temples, pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands.
Equally breath-taking is the Grand Canal, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June this year. Dating back to the 6th century and stretching 1,776 kilometres (1,104 miles) from the southern terminus of Hangzhou north to Beijing, the Grand Canal is the oldest and longest man-made waterway in the world, at least 10 times the length of the Suez Canal and 23 times that of the Panama Canal.
Another symbol of the city is the sight of one of China’s most spectacular natural phenomena, the roaring Qiantang River tidal bore, or Silver Dragon, the world’s largest tidal bore that rising to a height of as much 12 metres (40 feet) rolls upstream every September.
That Hangzhou is also the capital of China’s national drink, tea – its celebrated West Lake LongJing, or “Dragon Well”, green tea, consistently ranking first among China Top 10 leading teas – and home to one of the largest and wealthiest Buddhist temples in China, the stunning Lingyin Temple with a history stretching back 1,600 years, it is no wonder that Hangzhou’s tourism industry caters for upwards of 93.16 million visitors a year.
Beauty and business go hand in hand
On Friday 12th December, on his first state visit to China as a guest of President Xi Jinping, President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland will take a 45 minutes journey on the Shanghai–Hangzhou High-Speed Railway aboard the ‘Harmony’ train. Not only symbolic of China’s rapid technological advancement – the 202 kilometres (126 miles) long line, designed for commercial train service at 350 km/h (217 mph) was built in 20 months – the trip is an explicit induction to the vibrant city of Hangzhou with its strong culture of innovation.
The city has strong economic growth of 8%, a business-friendly and farsighted government, an abundance of research and development facilities, and proximity to business professionals throughout the Yangtze River Delta, all of which have contributed to Hangzhou’s recognition as both the capital of China’s online industry, and a celebrated hub of entrepreneurship.
Nobody typifies the new breed of Chinese entrepreneurship in a global era more than former Hangzhou-born school teacher Jack Ma, now China’s wealthiest man, who as the Founder and Executive Chairman of Hangzhou-based E-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group – arguably the world’s largest online and mobile company – leads a group of companies that reached a market value of €188 billion in September 2014. More than at any other of his meetings with China’s political elite, it is likely that at his meeting with Mr. Ma, President Higgins, who will be accompanied by Ireland’s Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, will come to truly appreciate the intrepid, confident, innovative consumerist spirit that makes China an essential market for Irish goods and services exports.
China’s ‘Silicon Valley’, Hangzhou is the stronghold from where Mr. Ma and his colleagues direct the online revolution that is turning China’s retail industry on its head: On the 11th November 2014 Alibaba’s Tmall business-to-consumer platform, an increasingly important platform for foreign retailers to penetrate China, ‘Singles Day’ online retail event achieved sales of around €7.6 billion. They are also plotting Alibaba’s expansion to become a truly global company. Investments in Europe and the USA beckon.
Twenty-seven years ago, when Zong Qinghou, a native of Zhejiang province, was 42, he made his living selling soft drinks and ice cream to schoolchildren in Hangzhou. Today, according to Forbes, Mr. Zong, as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hangzhou Wahaha, China’s leading beverage company that employs over 60,000 people and has over 64 manufacturing facilities, or “China’s drinks king”, is reputed to have a personal fortune of €9 billion making him the sixth wealthiest person in China.
Consistently topping the World Bank’s list of Chinese cities with the best investment climate, and rated by Forbes as one of the top 10 cities on the mainland for doing business, at the end of 2013 there were more than 12,000 foreign direct investment companies operating in Hangzhou while foreign investment surpassed €4.2 billion. Moreover, the city’s total foreign trade volume was almost €50 billion.
80,000 free bicycles, 2,000 electric public buses and 500 electric taxis
Maintaining Hangzhou’s advantage as a great place to do business in constantly requires improving the living environment and quality of life of its residents and visitors, an obligation that does not come without its challenges.
No challenge is more taxing then tackling the ecological problems associated with administering China’s 10th most populated city, and one of the most visited tourist cities in the world, not to mention the country’s deteriorating air quality and ecological environment.
For instance, with well over two million private cars on its roads, making it the second worst traffic congested of any major city in China, Hangzhou’s Leadership has taken a serious attitude on combating the issues by adopting zero-emissions public transportation, namely electric buses and taxis. Last June, in one of the world’s largest all-electric fleets ever ordered, Hangzhou purchased 2,000 long-range, battery-electric transit buses and 1,000 long-range, pure-electric taxi cars from BYD, the Chinese automaker backed by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., whose buses have already hit the streets of London and California.
Anybody who believes that bike-sharing is a European transportation phenomenon should set foot in Hangzhou. Recently rated by USA Today as the world’s best public bicycle sharing system, comprising 80,000 free bicycles leased up to 400,000 times a day, Hangzhou Public Bicycle, which was only launched in 2008, is also likely the most extensively utilised bike-sharing scheme, anywhere.
Another ground-breaking project that is a testimony to the vibrancy of Hangzhou’s advancement is its subway system which opened in 2012, following five years of construction. By 2020, the city plans to five subway lines operating at a total length of 200 kilometres (124 miles).
Ireland and Hangzhou
For Irish exporters struggling to seize upon the lucrative sales opportunities to be had in what is now arguably the world’s largest economy, Hangzhou provides an ideal foretaste of the extraordinary growth in the purchasing power of China’s increasingly affluent middle classes.
The average price of a new home in Hangzhou is about €2,700 per square metre; with daily flights operated by KLM from Hangzhou to Amsterdam, Paris and London are high on the list of preferred destinations for Hangzhou’s high spending tourists; while Rolls Royce, Maserati, Aston Martin, and Gucci showrooms all report brisk business, doubtless boosted by the scores of millionaires recently created by Alibaba’s September IPO.
As individual prosperity rises, people are becoming increasingly conscious about their health and quality of life. For instance, local demand for imported high-quality food and beverages such as dairy and nutritional food products present significant opportunities for Irish suppliers, as do local government –backed projects actively encouraging fuel efficiency, cleaner water, and better sanitation. There are also considerable opportunities in Hangzhou for services-related exports in the tourism and education sectors. With regard to the latter, 36 tertiary colleges and universities with close to 450,000 students are located in Hangzhou, including China’s second best university, Zhejiang University, one of China’s leading medical schools, Zhejiang Medical University, and the renowned China Academy of Arts, the most influential fine arts academy in China.
The challenges for any Irishexporter entering what is still a relatively immature market are apparent. China’s rapid growth since its 1978 opening to the world has not meant greater transparency. Given that the available market information is generally unreliable or misleading, making sound business decisions can be difficult, while a simple misunderstanding of local business practices can harm efforts to develop solid business relationships. As such there is an inherent need for proximity to the customer base for Irish exporters.
The Irish Exporters Association and Accurate Group, an Ireland China market making consultancy have been on the ground in Hangzhou for close to seven years building strong relationships with key business and Hangzhou government decision-makers. Consequently, Hangzhou’s Leadership, including its Party Secretary and Mayor, has visited Ireland on a regular basis.
President Michael D Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit to this fabled city not only is a clear recognition of Hangzhou’s long and illustrious history, it is also a statement acknowledging the potential for extending the hand of trade and friendship between Ireland and Hangzhou, a new gateway for Irish business into China.
For more information about President Higgins of Ireland’s State Visit to China click on the following YouTube video-clip:
The State Visit, the highest form of engagement, in diplomatic protocol, that one country can have with another, will be the 3rd overseas State Visit since the President of Ireland took office and is recognition of the warm relationship Ireland enjoys with the People’s Republic of China encompassing all aspects of the exchanges between Ireland and China in culture, education, trade and investment.
The President’s programme in China, which officially commences in Beijing on Sunday 7th December, will include State ceremonies, cultural, educational and business events, such as an Irish Cultural Performance in Beijing‘s Forbidden City Concert Hall, and Enterprise Ireland / IDA Ireland business and Embassy of Ireland Irish community receptions. A state dinner in his honour, hosted by the President Xi Jinping and Madame Ping will be held on Tuesday 19th December. On Thursday, 11th December, the Consul General of Ireland in Shanghai will host a reception for the Irish community, while on Friday 12th the President will visit the third city involved in the State Visit, Hangzhou. In Hangzhou, President Higgins will visit Alibaba, and have a meeting with Mr. Jack Ma its founder and Executive Chairman. Staying overnight in Hangzhou – perhaps at the West Lake State Guest House where Nixon and Mao signed the historic “3 Joint Communiques” in 1972– on Saturday he will visit the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou, which dates back to 328AD, take a Bronze Dragon Boat trip on Hangzhou’s spectacular West Lake, followed by a visit to a Longjing Tea Plantation before returning to Shanghai by bullet train. President Higgins will return to Ireland on Monday, 15th of December.
The importance of high-level diplomatic visits between the Ireland and China, which are helping to widen and deepen bilateral relations, cannot be overstated, and in our opinion a substantial trade spin-off can be expected to follow this major State Visit. Real potential exists for further enhancing the relationship between Ireland and China in Ireland’s niche industry sectors such as energy and green technologies, food and agriculture, financial services and aviation leasing, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, educational services, and tourism.
During his momentous visit to China President Higgins can be expected to emphasise the importance of trade links, and, more importantly from a Chinese perspective, growing mutual trust, while encouraging even greater economic co-operation between China and Ireland.
While there is considerable optimism in Ireland’s agri-food sector about Ireland having the potential to resolve problems of food security in China, New Zealand’s and, most recently, Australia’s free trade agreements with China serve to highlight the daunting task Ireland dairy and meat producers face gaining traction in such an intensely competitive market. As Mark Twain observed “To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement”. However, one point President Higgins is very good at is talking up Ireland and he will have separate official meetings at the Great Hall of the People with President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister, Mr Li Keqiang and the Chairman of the National People’s Congress, Mr Zhang Dejiang, the three most powerful people in China.
“both countries enjoy an excellent political, business and cultural relationship, much to the envy of Ireland’s European partners”.
Firstly, China’s political leaders are clearly impressed by Ireland’s ongoing economic renewal brought about by the country’s strict adherence to fulfilling its commitments as an international Monetary Fund (IMF) country programme country, as recognized by the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the European Commission. From an export dependency perspective, China has a vested interest in the European Union’s rapid return to growth and in this context Ireland is a shining beacon of light.
Secondly, such positive awareness dovetails with the ‘Irish Model’ that has proved so successful in the development of China’s own special economic zones areas. In Chinese political circles, whether we realise it or not, Ireland has made an important contribution to China’s economic development. In 1980, a visit by former Chinese President Jiang Zemin, then Senior Vice Minister of State Imports and Exports Administration, to the ‘Shannon Free Zone’ (the world’s first free trade zone) paved the way for Chinese companies to import goods into a special economic zone, manufacture or reconfigure the goods, and then export them without intervention of the customs authorities. The resulting export-led growth has delivered an economy that has experienced the fastest expansion in GDP per capita of any major economy in human history. In recent times after years of economic expansion China’s economic growth rate has being losing speed, in part due to a decline in demand for its exports from key markets. To stall the slowdown new economic prototypes are being assessed such as the fledgling Shanghai Free-Trade Zone that bears characteristics that can be traced back to the ‘Shannon-Free Zone’. The February 2012 visit to the Shannon Development Zone by President Xi Jinping, then Vice President of China, was no mere happenstance.
Thirdly, Ireland currently enjoys a unique position in Europe between two of China’s traditional rivals, the USA and the UK, which for China represents a “soft power” relationship it is determined to make the most of over the long-term.
Fourthly, in addition that Ireland is the only English speaking country in the Euro zone enjoying tariff and border free trade across the European Union makes for a useful entry point into the European market of 500 millions. However, from this perspective Ireland has yet to notch up any significant Chinese investments, a point that President Higgins will no doubt be highlighting during his meetings with China’s political elites.
During the second week of December Ireland will take centre stage in China like never before.
PresidentMichael D Higgins of Ireland looks set to embark on a State Visit to China in December, which will cover the cites of Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou.
Thirty-five years since Ireland and China formalised diplomatic relations with one and other, Ireland is a country genuinely admired by China’s Communist Party leadership and business elites.
It is safe to say that both countries enjoy an excellent political, business and cultural relationship, much to the envy of Ireland’s European partners. The current state of Ireland’s relationship with China, a priority trademarket for Ireland and the world’s second largest economy, can be best reflected in the frequent exchanges of high-level visits between our two countries.
Underpinning ever closer relations, although no official announcement is likely until the end of November, the President of IrelandMicheal D. Higgins looks set to embark on an historic State Visit to China in early December 2014 as the guest of President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, whom he previously welcomed to Ireland in 2012, when Xi Jinping was still Vice President of China.
If the visit goes ahead as expected, it will be the first State Visit to China by a President of Ireland since June 2010 when the incumbent President of Ireland Mary McAleese embarked on an official visit to China.
As highlighted recently by the several significant business deals secured for the Ireland’s food and financial services sectors, the deeper Irish-Chinese relationship is bringing profit to both countries and a follow up State Visit to Ireland by President Xi Jinping can now be expected to occur over the next 18 months.
Irish trade with China is close to €9 billion a year, with a strong trade surplus in Ireland’s favour, with Irish business increasingly viewing China as a key market for Irish exports.
The editorial’s threat that those who continue to participate in the protests should expect dire consequences has the same ominous undertone as a People’s Daily editorial released in the run up to the Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing, the latter being widely regarded as having prompted the ensuing slaughter. (http://wp.me/p15Yzr-r)
Certainly China’s new Paramount Leader Xi Jinping’s line of attack – an approach unreservedly endorsed by Hong Kong’s ever more authoritarian, government – will be “no contact, no negotiation, no compromise”, all the while pouring scorn on Hong Kong‘s ‘Occupy Central’ and ‘Scholarism’ protest movements, blaming American and UK “black hands” for stirring up trouble, and making use of pro-Beijing media and agent provocateurs to drive a wedge between the protesters and Hongkongers inconvenienced by the knock-on effect.
Adopting an attitude that the protests will die a natural death was precisely the same pigheaded mindset embraced by Chinese Premier Li Peng and the Chinese leadership back in 1989. When the leadership realised that the Tiananmen Square protest movement was actually growing they knew that the very heart of the Chinese Communist Party was under threat like never before… Martial law was subsequently introduced on 19th May 1989. The rest is history (a history that has been completely air-brushed away in China).
Dealing with an opponent like the Chinese Communist Party will require very shrewd leadership.
While Hong Kong‘s political landscape will never be the same again, the Chinese Communist Party, as plainly demonstrated by its hardnosed actions in Beijing in June 1989 and in the outer regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, is not for turning.
As June 1989 showed China’s leadership would not give a second thought to spending years in international isolation so long as the Party’s complete domination of the state levers of power continues. Nothing else matters.
Meanwhile, Beijing has at least 6,000 well-trained People’s Liberation Army troops stationed in various barracks around Hong Kong, a useful deployment if over the next few weeks and months the Hong Kong Police Force proves incapable of quelling umbrella revolution protesters, with an increased possibility of the “turmoil” (another favourite word of China’s omnipotent propaganda machine likely to be tossed into the fray in the days and weeks ahead) spreading over the border into mainland China.
Unfortunately for Beijing’s rulers, Hong Kong’s free press, independent judiciary and generally unimpeded education system have given rise to a new breed of unwavering Chinese activists who, brought up to think independently and critically, are determined not only to zealously defend Hong Kong’s basic freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion – as guaranteed in the Basic Law and related international conventions – but also, confronted with economic marginalisation and assimilation with mainland China, to fight for their own economic survival.
This is just the beginning of the struggle to defend Hong Kong’s distinctiveness, otherwise ‘Asia’s World City’ is in danger of becoming just like any other city in China.