Tag Archives: beijing

State Visit to the People’s Republic of China – President Michael D. Higgins of Ireland

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.

State Visit to China President of Ireland Michael D Higgins to meet President of China Xi Jinping

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.

Why is China so interested in Ireland?

As noted in an earlier Accurate China Insight http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=2Mic2J2sUyQ=

“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.

Source: http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=uInfgiAwMQU=

Niall O’Reilly

Managing Director, Accurate Group – Ireland China Market Makers

Website: For more ‘Accurate China Insights’ click  http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.php

Twitter: @AccurateChina – China: The Ireland Angle

China Office : Accurate Group China, Hangzhou – O: +86 571 8709 1253

Ireland Office: Accurate Group, Dublin – O: +353-1 271-1830

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New leaders of the Catholic Church and China, Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, have much in common, but little prospect of reconciliation


Change at the helm – New leaders of the Catholic Church and China, Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, have quite a bit in common

Habemus Papam (We have a Pope!) 我们有一个新主席 (We have a new President!)

Within 24 hours of each other two men assumed centre stage as leaders of the two greatest populations on our planet: In the Sistine Chapel Pope Francis – Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires – was elected the 266th pope and head of 1.2 billion Catholics (and Sovereign of the Vatican State), while inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the People Chinese Communist Party (CPC) leader Xi Jinping became the seventh President of the People’s Republic of China, ruling over 1.4 billion people.

China and the Vatican have had no official relations since 1951 – for 71 years, the Vatican has maintained diplomatic relations with the Republic of China, as Taiwan is formally known – and yet even with the uneasy relationship between China and the Catholic Church both newly appointed leaders actually have quite a bit in common. For instance:

  • Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing will rule over populations experiencing remarkable transformation, in which ‘21st century’-minded reformists and historical followers are losing faith – growing increasingly skeptical and critical of what they view as obsolete and outmoded traditional methods of governance and doctrine. However, there are still many conservatives within the Catholic Church and China who for the most part are opposed to reform, preferring to maintain the status quo and keep things the way they are.
  • Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing will lead hugely powerful and rich institutions whose very raison d’êtres are concern for the marginalised and disadvantaged, but whose supporting structures benefit from levels of advantage undreamed of by most of those they are meant to be serving. Both therefore want to be seen as thrifty, humble and genuinely concerned with the plight of the vulnerable and tackling the causes of poverty. 

– By choosing the name synonymous with the self-denial and poverty of the revered 13th Century preacher and friar, Italy’s patron saint Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis, the son of an immigrant railway worker, already known for his humility, selflessness, and championing of the poor and vulnerable, signaled his intention to place the plight of the poor and marginalized at the heart of his papacy.  

– Despite his celebrated family ties to the CPC hierarchy, being the son of veteran revolutionary Xi Zhongxun (the reforming architect of China’s Special Economic Zones), at the age of 15, during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution he was part of a work brigade sent down by the CPC to the countryside village of Liangjiahe, an insignificant cave dwelling community located in remote and desolate yellow soiled mountains of Shaanxi province in northern China, to serve and learn from the grassroots. There he made a cave his home, patiently “ate bitterness (吃了苦头like the rest of us (villagers)” Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/11/world/la-fg-china-xi-20120212 , and laboured the yellow earth for seven years. Aligned with his rise as paramount leader, Xi Jinping has gone to considerable lengths to reconnect with such formative years by cultivating an image as a man of the grassroots who prefers frugality, humility and self-reliance.  Recently, in the run-up to his inauguration as President he vehemently spoken out against extravagance while underlining the need to close China’s yawning income disparities and pull its poor people out of poverty.

Change at the helm – New leaders of the Catholic Church and China, Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, have quite a bit in common

Pope Francis I – Back to core values: Emphasis on the poor and doctrinal conservatism

  • Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing both need to address damaging scandals caused by abuses of power and discord among their membership ranks that threaten the very fabric of their organisations.  Pope Francis needs to tackle the series of detrimental moral and financial disgraces involving the Vatican administration, Cardinals and other clerics that have afflicted the Catholic Church for years. Xi Jinping’s pressing task is to tackle unchecked corruption among officials that is eroding trust and belief in the CPC. Leadership changes at the top of Catholic Church and CPC have raised the hope that at last meaningful reform and revitalization is on the way. The future cohesiveness of both organisations lies in whether Pope Francis and Xi Jinping can successfully reverse the rot.
  • Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing are both known to be unwavering traditionalists on key issues. 

– Moderate Catholics hoping the church under the guidance Pope Francis will modify its social views in accordance with their own beliefs will have to wait much longer. The new Pontiff is an explicit opponent of contraception, women priests, clerical celibacy, and gay marriage, the latter which he considers “an attempt to destroy God’s plan”. Source: http://www.irishtimes.com/news/social-affairs/religion-and-beliefs/first-pope-from-the-americas-francis-raises-hopes-of-change-among-faithful-1.1324325

– Those amongst the burgeoning middle classes in China who like to think that Xi Jinping’s accession to the seat of power is going to result in a wave of political reforms will be sorely disappointed. Holding a doctorate in Marxist theory and ideological education from Tsinghua University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and as a former President of the CPC Central Party School, Xi Jinping is believed to hold much more conservative views than his father Xi Zhongxun (who expressed his opposition to the nature of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 4th June 1989), a supporter of former ‘liberal’ CPC General Secretary Hu Yaobang. In speeches Xi has frequently called on rising cadres to immerse themselves in Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, declaring that political morality, “Marxist rectitude” and loyalty to the CPC are more important than professional competence. Source: “PLA Gains Clout: Xi Jinping Elevated to CMC Vice-Chairman,” China Brief, October 23, 2010. He was also an avowed supporter of the ‘Chongqing Model’ for upholding “core socialist norms”. Source: People’s Daily, December 13, 2010; Sina.com, December 10, 2010. [Note: The Chongqing Model was the series of social and economic policies adopted by Bo Xilai, the Chongqing CPC Chief, which epitomised increased state control and the promotion of a neo-leftist ideology. Following Bo’s removal in March 2012 the policies were either discontinued or scaled back.]

  • Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing were appointed to power through a guarded process in which the only persons who were allowed to participate were old men who are fully dedicated to the cause they stand for.

In terms of the likelihood of the Vatican one day switching its affiliation to Beijing, the similarities between the two established leaders as described above are cosmetic at best. Despite the growing appetite for spiritual values within mainland China’s officially atheist population, there is little prospect the CPC will recognise a foreign pope, rather than the secular Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, as the leader of all Chinese Catholics.  Besides faced with momentous internal challenges both the Pope Francis and President Xi Jinping will be too focused on ensuring the survival and prosperity of their own increasingly unmanageable institutions to care.

Source: http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=7Mnfy0l093k=

Additional source:  https://nialljoreilly.wordpress.com/2008/06/29/hangzhou-reflections-the-hangzhou-catholic-church-the-most-church-beautiful-in-china/  is an article about the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Catholic Church of Our Lady Of The Immaculate Conception in Hangzhou.

Change at the helm – New leaders of the Catholic Church and China, Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, have quite a bit in common

President Xi Jinping – Back to core values: Emphasis on the poor and doctrinal conservatism

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Accurate China Insight: How many people from Ireland are living and doing business in China?

As a Chinese language student studying in Beijing in 1989 I recall when all 8 members of the Irish community living in Beijing were evacuated by the Embassy to the safety of Hong Kong, following the June 3rd / 4th massacre in Tiananmen Square. It was a time when down in Shanghai the view from ‘The Bund’ (Wai Tan) across the Huangpu River to Shanghai’s Pudong district offered little more than a jumble of old low-rise warehouses, residential units and farming lots. Foreigners were few and far between. Living in China was considered at best a hardship posting.

Accurate China Insight - Irish population in China

Now, following the establishment in China of close to 150 Irish-owned business operations led by Glen Dimplex, CRH, Treasury Holdings, PCH and Kerry Group, etc, an influx of teachers from Ireland to teach English, and Irish graduates attracted by the growing range of job opportunities on offer to Irish candidates, the number living and working in China (including Hong Kong and Macau) has increased to at least 3,000 Irish citizens (Source: http://www.thepost.ie/themarket/china-in-your-hands-54873.html), an estimate, based on the numbers of citizens registered with the Embassy in Beijing and Consulate in Shanghai, and the volume of consular business (including passport applications, other document applications and consular assistance) conducted.

However, this number is likely to be at the low end of the spectrum simply because:

  1. there is no obligation on Irish residing in China to register with the Embassy and Consulate; and
  2. many Irish scattered across China in cities such as Hangzhou, Urumqi, Changchun, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Dalian, Ningbo, Qingdao, Tianjin and Xiamen, etc., probably haven’t registered with the Embassy or Consulate.

The total number of foreigners living in China at the end of 2010 was about 600,000 people according to the latest Population Census. According to the Xinhua News Agency:

the top three home countries of the foreigners were the Republic of Korea (ROK), the United States and Japan. Among the foreigners living on the Chinese mainland, 56.62 percent or 336,245 were males and 43.38 percent or 257,587 were females”.

Note: The Embassy and Consulate are restricted in law in how the citizens register is used and cannot make it available outside the Embassy and Consulate. The more people who register with them the more accurate the estimate can be.

Sources:
The Sunday Business Post-

http://www.thepost.ie/themarket/china-in-your-hands-54873.html

Xinhua-

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-04/29/c_13851456.htm

Accurate China Blog http://www.accuratelimited.com/blog.view.php?id=1whhJh5C+5Y=

Niall O’Reilly

Accurate Ireland – China Product & Business Development (Export Sourcing Import) Consultancy

Tel: +353 1271 1830 / +86 15257194468

http://www.accuratelimited.com

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Accurate China Insight: If your business is product sourcing: How competitive is the ‘Made in China’ brand?

Despite the Chinese Government’s past success at restraining inflation, accelerating food, fuel, raw material and labour costs have resulted in a widely held belief that average inflation rates of 4 to 5 percent are here to stay in China, at least over the over the next decade.

Which raises the question: With rises in wage and manufacturing costs set to be the norm is China still competitive as a product source for Ireland’s importers? Accurate China Insight: If your business is product sourcing: How competitive is the 'Made in China' brand?

Ireland’s importers are right to exercise caution when sourcing from China.  However, China still has much working in its favour:

  1. China is politically stable, and such stability is good for business
  2. Low cost countries surrounding China are also weathering an inflation contagion, with inflation rates in Vietnam, India and Pakistan increasing at a much faster rate.

June 2011 Inflation Rates:

Vietnam 20.8%

Pakistan 13.3%

India 8.7%

China 6.4%

Indonesia 5.5%

Malaysia 4.6%

Philippines 4.6%

Thailand 4.1%

(Sources: Respective country central banks) 

3.  Production costs in China are still low, despite rising costs.

4. Skills levels are generally high. While China’s factories could be said to be still at an early stage in their execution of innovative manufacturing techniques, their production processes are still well ahead of similar production operations in surrounding low cost countries.

5.  The striking effects of the ‘Clustering’ in China’s three economic powerhouses [Pearl River Delta (from Hong Kong to Guangzhou), Yangtze River Delta (Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing and Shanghai) and the area around Beijing and Tianjin] which have resulted in the construction of excellent infrastructure, a concentrated material supply chain, and an experienced and skilled labour force.  There is no evidence of such a clustering blend being prevalent in other surrounding low-cost countries.

6.  Productivity and industry familiarity.  While the costs of labour and logistics, as well as labour availability, are driving up factory output costs along China’s coastal rim, cities in central and China, such as Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Zhengzhou and Hefei, and their surrounding provinces, are much more cost competitive with respect to the manufacture of products in which the value-added and process complexity is low.  Meanwhile, the coastal manufacturing hubs, with their knowledge of particular manufacturing industry sectors, are becoming more focused on complex, skill intensive factory production.  In surrounding low cost countries such instances of high productivity levels and industry knowledge are limited.

The biggest issue for Ireland’s importers relates to fluctuating oil prices and their impact on the cost of shipping products sourced from China to Ireland, which is a worldwide occurrence.

Source:

Niall O’Reilly

Director for China, Irish Exporters Association

Accurate Ireland – China Business Advisers – Products & Services Sourcing | Business Development Consultancy

Tel: +353 1271 1830 / +86 15257194468

http://www.accuratelimited.com

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Filed under Accurate China Business Advisers, Accurate China Insight, Accurate Group, Business, China, Economy, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Irish Exporters Association, Suzhou, trade

China’s Propaganda Posters

Source: Central Newsreel and Documentary Film Studio, Beijing

Chinese propaganda poster hailing Ireland's revolution

Chinese propaganda poster hailing Ireland’s revolution

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Two days in January: Guinness, drugs, bar brawls in China, the Gardai (Irish Police), and a roller-coaster

Saturday 10th / Sunday 11th January

Irish and Chinese pub scenes

Last Sunday appears a bit hazy, but now come to think of it, that’s probably due to the four pints of Plain (Guinness) I swallowed the previous Saturday evening with close friend and business partner P at the swank (for Dun Laoghaire at least) setting of Bordega’s Bar −well it used to be when it first opened as the 40 Foot Bar.

We didn’t mention the ‘A’ (Accurate) word once, except to remind ourselves not to mention the ‘A’ word (we’d our thinking caps on all week long planning our line of attack for 2009 and it was now time for a break, let the hair down). More to the point, there were far too many distractions in the Pub, and I’m not referring to the overly cosmeticized peroxide blondes, or the Chinese bar-tenders speaking in a Dublin dialect…. “How’r yah…what’ill yah ave” and the like. Dalian seemed another planet away.  No, the highlight was the barney (argument) between what appeared to be a Concerned Parents Against Drugs parent who over in the far corner of the bar had confronted a peddler of death and destruction, otherwise known as a drug dealer (like their European neighbours, Ireland’s towns and cities are blighted by the scourge of cocaine, heroin, and just about everything else that has caused indescribable misery for so many families). “They were having words”, as we’d say in Dublin, and things were getting a bit heated. Perhaps it was the drink, I initially thought. Nothing too unusual so far until the unremarkable looking parent, a man in his 50s, suddenly pounced on the à la mode dressed dealer, a man in his 20s. All hell broke loose, and fists were flying.

The pub’s brawny, bald and tattooed security people (we call them “bouncers”) excitedly swung into action, burying themselves in the mêlée to the point where it was difficult to make out who was who.  In due course, however, the well-practised bouncers emerged from the fray with three louts and the parent, all of whom were strong-armed from the bar.

[As an aside, I just had a rare ‘Niall deliberation’. At least three additional bar brawls and one street fight have been observed by myself over the years, and all in China…  :

  1. In 1989 I was drinking in a bar, one of those cosy diminutive bars typical of Beijing at the time, which was owned by a local Chinese friend and his English wife. Three sinister looking, thug-like, plain clothes policemen dressed in black leather jackets were seated in a dark corner apparently playing cards. They had been following my friend around for weeks. The Government didn’t like the fact he was becoming quite well-known outside China for expressing opinions they considered to be ‘counter revolutionary’, and they were taking every opportunity to harass him. Imbibing with me were  BW an Irish diplomat, and Didi, a Nigerian diplomat and Didi. Suddenly a full bottle of beer came hurtling through the air smashing against the wall within an inch of Didi’s head. One of the thugs pretending to be swaggered his way to our table: “Hei ren zou ba!” (black man get out!). We left abruptly.
  2. In 2000 I was drinking in a bar in Hangzhou with an Italian friend and two local female friends. A thug at the bar clearly very drunk was taking exception to two local ladies drinking with foreign men. He wobbled over to our table and asked the girls to leave, before cursing them in Chinese. The noisy bar Kana Bar turned eerily quiet. We ignored him, which made him even madder. Eventually, still full of bluster he turned around and headed back to his Russian and American friends gutlessly seated at the bar. We thought the intense stand-off was over, were congratulating ourselves when suddenly a wooden bar stool swished by us before crashing on to someone else’s table, whereupon all hell broke loose. Tables and chairs were flung everywhere… The four of us hide under the table before crawling out the door, untouched. Incidentally, the Russian guy at the bar is one of the most feared people mafia types in Hangzhou, while his American friend runs a bar and language school in Hangzhou.
  3. In 2002 was enjoying the Salsa at Hangzhou’s popular Night and Day when suddenly a large street-level window disintegrated from the force of a street sign post lobbed through it. A fight ensued, and there was a lot of blood… Within five minutes all was over. Apparently, the owner of the bar had fallen out with some local thugs.
  4. Oh and the fight on a street in Suzhou between two women, squealing like injured pigs, pulling hard at each other’s hair and scratching each other with their long nails, and a crowd of onlookers egging them on, nobody brave enough to intervene, least of all myself.

Curiously in all four incidents, not a uniformed policeman in sight. But I digress…]

Meanwhile back in Bordega’s a sense of normality had been restored, not that the tussle had really distracted us:  The pints and the crisps were going down well. We were having too much of craic (as in Irish for “fun” not to be confused with the Crack derivative of heroin) nattering on about our existence when about six members of An Garda Siochana  (the Irish Police) appeared from nowhere.

The Gardai have been a source of public dissatisfaction for years (some would say deservedly so, while others would say the Force shouldn’t be judged on the indiscretions of a few black sheep) on account of past recklessness including bribery, beatings (they were particularly partial to a good old-fashioned riot, especially the anti-Establishment anti-Globalisation protests run by a motley mix of Guevaraesque leftist students, anarchists,  greenies, students,  and other ‘new-age’ thinkers where they could swing their batons at will), doctoring evidence, being a little too close to certain politicians, and bumbling ineptitude.

How times have changed. After this particular Saturday night, no more will I paint all Gardai with the same villain brush, but rather they have earned my wholehearted admiration and respect. Watching them vigorously go about their work with a strong sense of purpose and duty it was clear to me this ‘new look’ Irish police force, dressed in their standard issue anti-stab vests (they don’t carry guns), has learned not only to be politely civil (they now speak clearly enunciated English, as opposed to heavily accented country-speak!!. In the 1980s a UK publication referred to them as akin to thick lumps of red meat from the mountains of Kerry, ape-like), but projects an appearance that is able-bodied, robust and confident, a clear force for the  thugs, who of late seem to gaining the advantage, to reckon with.

They courteously asked several men who they suspected of being involved in the fight to join them outside, while at the scene of the initial argument a Garda was down on all fours minutely searching the floor…. Hopefully, in his haste to defend himself from the irate parent, the ‘merchant of death’ had dropped enough traces of the misery he peddles for the Gardai to take him off the streets for a few years at least.

But really, for what they have to deal with in a daily basis I say “hats off to the Gardai”…which reminds me of the time in my youth when a friend of mind, the worse for wear after a few post international rugby match drinks too many, grabbed the hat off the head of a Garda, and started sprinting down the road.. the Garda gave chase but after about thirty meters was huffing and puffing.  Not anymore.

Still what I actually did on Sunday is still a bit obscure (now blaming the void in my brain on the jet lag)… I remember the delicious dinner of stuffed pork cooked by Mum and the bottle of Romanian red wine.

Investing in an Investor and ‘Cast-iron guarantees”

Ah, another rare ‘Niall deliberation’ has occurred. The call from Tim S, the prospective investor in ‘A’, which brought me to my senses with a thud:

“I talked to three potential investors, and they won’t be putting their money into A unless you can provide them with a cast iron guarantee of a return of investment….  but I consider what you are doing in China to be the future for Ireland”… So says Tim S. who had recently lost his shirt to the tune of €300,000 from investments in AIB, a leading Irish bank tethering on the brink of collapse (I was quick to tell him I’d lost an additional part of my clothing in the hugely over-hyped Marrakech, a memory which still touches a raw-nerve, so we’ll leave that one there).

So the NSP team that is A have put together a solid investment proposal for a business which based on some of the exciting programs coming together at last will see investors being repaid with a nice big interest within 24 months.  I am told by the movers and shakers in Ireland’s investor community that 12 months ago, given the scope for two of the key projects we are working on, and the specific plan to build a strong, stable and well-branded business, we’d have had investors queuing up.

Now the buzz term used by the private investors, venture capitalists, and banks  when turning down an investment proposal or a loan request is there need for a “cast iron guarantee” of return on investment.  Of course this is pure nonsense. Nobody can give a 100% guarantee about anything these days.

The reality is the fear of much worse financial turmoil to come, and no person, company, or bank wants to part with money they already have.  With banks not lending and investors not investing, or, worse, tightening the screws on ordinary people and businesses, they have already loaned to or invested in, there is a burning need for Government to restore confidence by decisively taking the lead in stimulating demand. Alas the half-hearted Irish Government appears like a deer standing in the middle of a dark road dazed by the headlights of an oncoming juggernaut.

Like many people running a small business, Sunday’s sleep was troubling at best: the ‘A’ dream roller-coaster analogy trundles forward at full-speed: front seat passenger (the buck stops with me), white knuckles (hanging on for my dear life, trying to keep my eyes open), massive loop-the-loops (stomach churning highs and lows), followed by huge senses of elation and delight as the roller coaster flattens out and the expected calm returns. Yes, I am looking forward to looking back and telling myself “yes  the journey was hell, but the sense of achievement, having endured and succeeded are much more important than the pain and hardship, which we’ll eventually chalk down to experience”.

18412-desktop-wallpapers-change-your-world

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Special Olympics World Summer Games Euphoria – From Dublin 2003 to Shanghai 2007

Wow! It’s already over four years since the last Special Olympics World Summer Games were hosted Dublin. It was the largest sports event ever hosted in Ireland.

From 2nd to 11th October the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games will be hosted by Shanghai [http://www.2007specialolympics.com], the first of the three Olympic Games to be staged in China over the next 14 months, including the Summer Olympics and the Paralympic Games to be held next Summer in Beijing.

Unlike now, the days before the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2003 in Dublin were mired in controversy. At the time both Hong Kong and China were affected by the outbreak of the illness known as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Irish Government fearful of SARS spreading to Ireland decided to ban the Hong Kong Special Olympics team from traveling to Ireland to compete at the Games. There was outrage in Hong Kong with protests outside the office of the Honorary Consul of Ireland. For me what was particular odious about this decision was the fact that business men and women were still allowed to freely travel to Ireland.

In Ireland on the radio, television and in the newspapers there was intense debate about the Irish Government’s decision. Living and working in Hong Kong there was a palpable sense of outage amongst the Irish community. Something had to be done. I decided to write two letters. The first which was published on 6th June, was to the Irish Examiner newspaper, while the second letter was to Chairman of the Organising Committee, Mr. Denis O’Brien (who was also an investor in the company I was working for at the time).

Irish Examiner Newpaper

Friday 6th June, 2003

 “Hong Kong’s special athletes hit by a peculiar Irish infection”

I WRITE in response to the latest “final” June 4 decision of the Department of Health and Children’s expert group on SARS and the Special Olympics to maintain its ban on Hong Kong’s disabled athletes travelling to Ireland, thus depriving them of the chance to attend what likely would be the most thrilling event in their lives.

This illogical decision comes after a period of unprecedented high-level dialogue between senior Hong Kong government officials and Irish medical experts in which the Hong Kong side sought to articulate a clearer understanding of the situation and the extra efforts that it would make to guarantee the health of its athletes before departure.

It is almost two weeks since the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the lifting of its travel advisory against Hong Kong, noting that SARS outbreaks had been contained, which is not much different to its observations regarding the status of Canada and mainland China.

In fact, all new SARS cases confirmed in Hong Kong over the past month (an average of fewer than five cases per day compared to upwards of 60 daily at the end of March) have occurred in people who were already identified as contacts of a person with SARS and under active surveillance by the local health authorities.

None of the Hong Kong Special Olympics athletes hoping to travel to Ireland has had contact with any SARS patients, or any suspected cases.

The WHO has highly commended Hong Kong’s transparency and aggressive Hong Kong Special Olympics procedures.

All close contacts of known SARS cases are quarantined at home.

In addition, their Hong Kong ID numbers are passed to the immigration department to ensure that they cannot leave the territory.

Since the implementation of these rigorous exit-screening procedures at border checkpoints, which also include mandatory temperature checking of all outbound travellers, there have been no reports of internationally exported cases of SARS from Hong Kong.

What is more, the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended against cancelling or postponing gatherings that will include people travelling to the US from areas with SARS, and the quarantine of persons arriving from SARS-affected areas who have shown no fever or respiratory symptoms.

As such, over the past fortnight Hong Kong exhibitors have been welcomed to the Las Vegas Jewellery Fair and the Cannes Film Festival as a result of the precautionary measures that the exhibitors had undertaken voluntarily.

And yet, it is against such transparency that Ireland still maintains its travel ban depriving athletes, some of whom have trained for up to eight years and whose team won 53 gold medals at the last Special Olympics, their chance to be the pride of Hong Kong.

Remarkably, no such travel ban has been imposed on other travellers from Hong Kong seeking entry to Ireland.

This ‘final’ decision appears not only irrational, but also hypocritical, given the latest guidelines conveniently lifting the travel ban on athletes from cities and regions where local transmission of SARS has not been reported, meaning that the Special Olympic Games will not be devoid of two of the largest participating teams, Canada and China.

It demonstrates that the Department of Health and Children has chosen not to follow the WHO‘s advice and made a decision without due regard to the precautionary measures that the Hong Kong Special Olympics Committee had proposed to take before their departure for the games.

The official flag presentation ceremony for the Hong Kong Special Olympics team is set to take place here on June 8, an event supported by The Hong Kong Gaelic Athletic Association, the St Patrick’s Society of Hong Kong, the Irish Business Forum and Enterprise Ireland.

It is the fervent wish of the Irish community in Hong Kong that the Irish government remove this unnecessary travel ban.

Niall O’Reilly,

15, Mosque Street,

Mid-Levels,

Hong Kong.

[Source: This story appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Friday, June 06, 2003 

http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2003/0606/ireland/hong-kongaposs-special-athletes-hit-by-a-peculiar-irish-infection-983257838.html]

The about-turn was remarkable.

Three days before the Opening Ceremony in Dublin, without prior notice, at 3.00 am I was awaken by the loud ringing sound of my telephone.  On the other end of the line was Denis O’Brien excitedly describing the excellent news that the Irish Government had decided to lift its travel ban and that the special athletes from Hong Kong were free to travel to Ireland. Denis O’Brien also offered to send his private jet to collect the Hong Kong team from London.

The Special Olympics World Summer Games in Dublin were a wonderful success, and I have heard from several people who were lucky enough to attend, the Opening Ceremony or witness it television that one of the most emotional memories of the evening was the arrival in the Croke Park stadium of the Hong Kong team when the packed house of 80,000 people stood up to cheer them these very special athletes. 

For me the abiding memory that will stay with me is being invited to represent the Irish Community of Hong Kong at the welcome home ceremony for the successful Hong Kong team. The sparkling smiles on the faces of the Hong Kong Special Olympics athletes, bedecked with gleaming gold and silver medals, will always stay in my mind.

“On June 19, I had the privilege of carrying the Olympic Torch – or Flame of Hope as it is called – and leading the Final Leg Torch Run team into Clonmel. Clonmel is a town of about 25,000 people and I would estimate that about half were on the streets to greet us. I have never seen so many Hong Kong flags in my life. They flew from the rooftops, from the buildings, from the churches and from the hands of thousands of people on the streets. And everyone was shouting Hong Kong! Hong Kong! at the tops of their voices.

“We ran into the town square where the Lord Mayor was present to greet us. I handed over the Flame of Hope. The Mayor took me to one side and told me that the Hong Kong team had not arrived. They were still in Macao under quarantine for SARS.

“To have run so far (over 200 miles) and not see the Hong Kong team was heartbreaking. I am not ashamed to say that I fell to my knees and wept.

“However, the Mayor told me that the Hong Kong team would be arriving in Dublin the following day and that a delegation from Clonmel would go to meet and welcome them. On the evening of June 21, we carried the Flame of Hope into Croke Park, Dublin, for the start of the games.

“The Special Olympics teams then marched into Croke Park in alphabetical order. I heard the master of ceremonies say “And now I see a particular team coming into the stadium. This is a team that we thought we would never see. But now they are here and we are so pleased to see them. Give a big, big welcome for Hong Kong!” About 85,000 people stood up and at the tops of their voices shouted: Hong Kong! Hong Kong! The noise was unbelievable! But it was obviously inspiring Ñ the Hong Kong Special Olympics team won 31 medals at this year’s games.

“I had a wonderful career with the Hong Kong Police Force and have had a wonderful life. But nothing in my experience is likely to top the emotion that I felt running for Hong Kong on the Law Enforcement Final Leg Torch Run.”

Source: Mr Peter Halliday, former Assistant Commissioner (Information Systems), Hong Kong Police Force helped carry the Special Olympics Games torch from Athens to Dublin http://www.police.gov.hk/offbeat/757/eng/s01.htm

"Special Olympics has not only given me the opportunity to compete, but also the confidence to compete. I am very proud of my accomplishments, and where else would I get to travel around the world?" (Source: Mei-Yu Lau - http://couch-gymnast.blogspot.com.es/2008/11/cartwheels-in_21.html ]

Gymnast Mei-Yu Lau, Team Hong Kong, on the vault at the 2003 Special Olympics Summer Games in Dublin: “Special Olympics has not only given me the opportunity to compete, but also the confidence to compete. I am very proud of my accomplishments, and where else would I get to travel around the world?”                                (Source: Mei-Yu Lau – http://couch-gymnast.blogspot.com.es/2008/11/cartwheels-in_21.html )

And so fast forward to late next week when a delegation of 1,000 Irish Special Olympians and their families will arrive in Shanghai to participate in the Special Olympics World Summer Games, 2007. Let the Games begin!

[Note: Special Olympics is an international non-profit organization dedicated to helping individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition]

Note: My review of the Special Olympics World Summer Games, 2000, in Shanghai  ‘Words matter: Mentally retarded or human gift? Looking back at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Shanghai’ is posted here: 

https://nialljoreilly.com/2007/11/08/words-matter-mentally-retarded-or-human-gift-looking-back-at-the-special-olympics-world-summer-games-in-shanghai/ ]

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