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Closer business cooperation & people-to-people exchanges expected in China-Ireland ties: Irish Ambassador to China

“I’m delighted to be here for my first official visit to Guangdong province, and what’s really struck me is the dynamism of the economy here. There’s a real sense of energy and innovation,” Ann Derwin, Ambassador of Ireland to China, told GDToday on May 9.

Ann Derwin led a delegation to Shenzhen and Guangzhou, visiting enterprises and educational institutes with links to Ireland from May 8 to 10. What are the highlights of China-Ireland ties? What role does Guangdong play in it? Are there any new business opportunities to discover?

More cooperation expected in advanced manufacturing & financial services

The first stop that Ambassador Derwin visited in Guangdong was BYD in Shenzhen. Earlier this year, Chinese auto giant BYD officially entered the Irish market, with Motor Distributors Ltd (MDL) as its Irish partner and dealer.

Meanwhile, a number of Irish companies have set up their base in Guangdong. Some are engaged in the area of supply chains and with a strong focus on sustainability.

“We are both very strong and pro-business and economies. I’m really delighted to be here and explore building on the existing links and to explore opportunities for further collaboration,” said Ambassador Derwin.

According to her, Ireland has vast experience, like Guangdong, in terms of operating free trade zones. The very first free trade zone was established in Shannon in Ireland in 1959, which attracted attention from China.

Advanced manufacturing is the other focus of this visit. “It’s a really interesting opportunity to visit them and to talk about their experience in the province,” Ambassador Derwin commented.

According to statistics, in the first half of 2022, the nine mainland cities that make up the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) saw the advanced manufacturing industry take up 55.9%, and the high-tech manufacturing industry take up 33.1%, respectively, of the industrial added value above the designated size.

Moreover, speaking of the GBA, Ambassador Derwin said, “Ireland has a long history and with a large diaspora population living in Hong Kong and the community there is very strong. We’ve seen a lot of investment in Guangdong come in via Hong Kong. The cooperation in the financial services area has been very strong, and it’s an area where we think there are huge opportunities for growth, particularly in green finance.

People-to-people links highlighted to tighten China-Ireland relations

“These people-to-people links are very strong, and this will be a source of great strength in the future in terms of building our bilateral relations,” Ambassador Derwin stressed, adding, “Universities in both Ireland and Guangdong have long-standing relationships in fruitful cooperation on joint education programs in various disciplines.”

Cooperation in higher education is noteworthy between Ireland and Guangdong. Strong relationships exist between Guangzhou Nanfang College’s collaboration with Griffith College in Dublin and the Guangzhou Dublin International College of Life Sciences & Technology.

Data shows that education continues to be a major growth area in terms of China-Ireland cooperation, with approximately 3,000 Chinese students studying in Irish higher education institutes and over 60 joint university programs ongoing. 

In the meantime, in Ireland, Chinese was introduced into the Leaving Certificate (Exam) for the first time last year. “So that’s the equivalent to the Gaokao, and we think that this will lead to more Irish students wanting to come and study in China,” Ambassador Derwin furthered.

Next year, the two countries will celebrate the 45th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. Ambassador Derwin believes that it will be an important opportunity to celebrate and share bilateral cultural links and heritage.

She said, “This year marks the 100th anniversary of the poet William Butler Yeats winning the Nobel Prize 100 years ago, and we’re hoping to build on that next year, to have a large cultural offering and to visit many cities in China, and to celebrate the establishment of diplomatic links 45 years ago.”

Ambassador Derwin also hopes that Irish Riverdance, the national artistic treasure of Ireland, can return to Chinese audiences as international travel has resumed: “I know that Riverdance is really appreciated here in China and they have a lot of fans. We’re really hoping that Riverdance will return to China later this year or early next year, and tour several Chinese cities.”

Reporter | Hannah, Steven

Script | Hannah

Video | Qin Shaolong

Poster | Lulu

Editor | Wing, Steven, James

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