To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Consul Generals in Shanghai sit down with Eastday reporters to talk about their countries’ friendly ties with China.
Closer ties ahead between China and Ireland

By:Wang Jiaye

点赞中国“双赢”之道 专访爱尔兰驻沪副总领事

"Saint Patrick's Day has become a big celebration of Shanghai's cultural calendar. And in Ireland, Chinese New Year has become very popular. In Dublin, there will be great excitement around the city in February to celebrate Chinese New Year," Deputy Consul General of Ireland in Shanghai, Aileen Murray, said in an interview with ahead of the Spring Festival.

The year of 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the People's Republic of China and the 40 years of diplomatic relations between China and Ireland. Ms. Murray, who was in Chinese red and wore a badge with the two national flags, talked about the impressive stories of the Sino-Irish exchanges over the past 40 years.

“我们的圣帕特里克节如今已成为上海文化日历中一项大型庆典;而在爱尔兰,中国的春节也越来越流行,今年2月,都柏林将举办盛大活动庆祝中国新年。” 2019年是中华人民共和国成立70周年,也是中国与爱尔兰建交40周年。新春前夕,爱尔兰驻上海副总领事莫爱玲(Aileen Murray)着一身中国红,佩戴中爱国旗徽章,接受东方网记者采访。进口博览会、直航、友城、踢踏舞……一系列关键词串联起中爱交往40年来的高光时刻。

Deputy Consul General of Ireland in Shanghai, Aileen Murray (Photo by Eastday)


Bilateral trade reaches record high with big deal inked at CIIE

双边贸易创新高 进博会上签大单

Ms. Murray started with the trade area when looking back at the exchange achievements. "In 2017, we had over 16 billion euros in two-way trade between Ireland and China, reaching a new record high. Ireland is one of the few EU countries having a trade surplus with China. Many Irish companies are upgrading here very successfully, especially in the food, beverage and dairy industries."


According to historic data, the volume of two-way trade was only 5.15 million US dollars at the beginning of the diplomatic relations in 1979, and reached over one hundred times that level, 5.5 billion euros, in 2008. That number had almost trebled by 2017, at which point China had already been Ireland's largest Asian trading partner for several years.


China's investment in Ireland has also been growing rapidly in recent years, said Ms. Murray, noting that an increasing number of enterprises from China have chosen Ireland as one of their European bases, including banks like Bank of China (BOC) and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), technology companies like Tencent as well as pharmaceutical companies like Wuxi Biologics. BOC opened its Dublin branch on June 28, 2017, becoming the first full branch of a Chinese bank in Ireland.


Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys at the first CIIE (Photo source: Irish Consulate General in Shanghai)


"It was a busy and important time." That was how the deputy consul general described the first China International Import Expo (CIIE).

Last November, two Irish ministers led a number of delegations traveling to Shanghai for the event. They were, Irish Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys, and Irish Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle. They took part in the activities and visited the booths of Irish exhibitors.

提到首届中国国际进口博览会,这位副总领事形容那是“繁忙而又重要的时光”。去年11月,两位爱尔兰部长——商业、企业和创新部部长汉弗里斯(Heather Humphreys)和农业部国务部长安德鲁·多伊尔(Andrew Doyle)分别率团亲临现场,参加各项活动并参观爱尔兰企业展台。

"The CIIE is a very clear signal that China's willing to pursue further opening up to the world. This is a very welcome message for us", Ms. Murray stated, noting that Irish people can learn of more opportunities in the Chinese market through that and present what they have to offer.


Booths of Irish exhibitors at the first CIIE (Photo source: Irish Consulate General in Shanghai)


Notably, during the expo, Wyeth Nutrition (China) signed a memorandum of understanding for strategic cooperation with the Irish Food Board on imports from Ireland, with a goal to promote trade exchanges in agriculture, food and the dairy industry between China and Ireland.


People-to-people exchanges warm and strong

人文交流暖心意 教育、旅游、文化艺术全面开花

Over the past 40 years, people-to-people exchanges between China and Ireland have been warm and strong, covering a wide range of areas including education, tourism and culture.

In Ms. Murray's view, one of the big milestones was the twinning of Shanghai and Cork. "It is our first pair of twinned cities with China and also one of the most successful. The two local governments are so well engaged. They are working together on a number of projects across industries."


One of the best examples is the "Shamrock Cup" English-speaking competition for Shanghai high school students, said Ms. Murray, detailing that every year they go to a different district of Shanghai - last year in Yangpu and Pudong the year before. Students demonstrate their English skills by presenting on a choice of topics related to Ireland. The winner will be awarded an all-expenses-paid trip to Ireland. (The Shamrock is Ireland's national flower and a registered trademark of the country.)


The "Shamrock Cup" English-speaking competition for Shanghai high school students was held in Yangpu District in 2018. (Photo source: Irish Consulate General in Shanghai)


"We are very proud of the many Chinese students who come to study in Ireland each year, and who stay in touch with us after they return to China." Due to the increase in exchange of students between Ireland and China, Ms. Murray noted that many of the Irish universities and institutes of technology have presences and partnerships here in China.


It is worth mentioning that according to the Irish government's Strategy for Foreign Languages in Education 2017-2026, the Chinese language will be taught at the Leaving Certificate level (equivalent to the National University Entrance Examination in China) from 2020 and examined in 2022.



Hainan Airlines opened Beijing – Dublin flight on June 12, 2018. (Photo source: Wechat platform of the Irish Embassy in China)

Another great piece of news is the launching of non-stop flights to Ireland. Hong Kong – Dublin flights by Cathay Pacific, and Beijing – Dublin ones by Hainan Airlines, successively opened last June. In addition to this, Hainan Airlines will launch a second direct flight linking Shenzhen and Dublin on February 25, 2019.

The deputy consul general stated that the direct flights will further raise the already greatly increasing tourist numbers and estimated that Ireland will have 125,000 Chinese tourists in 2025.


For romantic and poetic Irish people, its cultural exchanges in Shanghai have been really rapidly developing. At the very beginning of 2019, "Heartbeat of Home" toured in Shanghai, as the second step in the journey that started with "Riverdance".

Ms. Murray calls the show a mix of different dance styles since it demonstrates the traditional Irish music and dance (as seen in Riverdance), and combines flamenco, salsa, street dance and even China's big-drum dance. A piece of Chinese music "the sea, my sweet home" was also played in the show, which resonated with the audience.


"Heartbeat of Home" (Photo source: Irish Consulate General in Shanghai)


March 17 is Ireland's National Day, also known as St. Patrick's Day, when Irish people around the globe wear something green (the traditional color of Ireland) to join in the celebration. The same is true in Shanghai.

In particular, at the invitation of the Shanghai People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (SPAFFC), a young music and dance group from Western Ireland "Cnoc na Gaoithe" have come to Shanghai to share traditional Irish arts for three successive years since 2016. They left footprints in many places including the Metro Music Salon of the People's Square Station, Waitanyuan cultural space in Huangpu District and the cultural center of Ruijiner Road Sub-District.

每年3月17日是爱尔兰国庆日,也称圣帕特里克节,全球爱尔兰人都会穿上绿色的服饰加入欢庆盛典,在上海也不例外。其中,应上海市人民对外友好协会邀请,一支来自爱尔兰西部的年轻乐队,山风乐队(Cnoc na Gaoithe),自2016年起连续三年来沪献演。人民广场地铁音乐角、黄浦外滩源、瑞金二路社区文化活动中心等都留下了他们的翡翠魔音与酷炫舞步。

St. Patrick's Day in Shanghai in 2017 (Photo by Eastday)


In addition, Bloomsday, a festival celebrating the Irish writer James Joyce has been celebrated in Shanghai for 14 years. Every June 16, the Irish Consulate General, writers and literary fans from Ireland and Shanghai join together to spend a retro and elegant day.


Kids taking part in the Bloomsday events (Photo by Eastday)


Opening up positive for both countries


China and Ireland established diplomatic ties in 1979, nearly at the same time as the starting of China's reform and opening up policy. The deputy consul general views that for Irish people, the concept of opening up is a very positive one, as their own economic liberalization led to Ireland moving to a comparatively rich one.

In 1973, Ireland became a member of the European Economic Community and a member country of the European Union when the European Economic Community was incorporated into the EU in 1993. Ireland experienced the very rapid opening up to the EU market and then further to the global market. That had a massive transformative effect to the Irish economy. So China's opening up is very much in line with what Ireland has experienced, she said.


"China is good at finding mutually beneficial relationships and taking the time to build them sustainably. This is something we admire," said Ms. Murray, adding that innovation is one of the areas that Ireland and China have both focused on in recent years.


In 2012, the then Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping visited Ireland and in 2014, Irish President Michael D Higgins visited China. The high-level visits laid a firm foundation for the subsequent development of the relationship between the two countries.


Ireland's second largest city, Cork (Photo source: Irish Consulate General in Shanghai)


The Consulate General of Ireland in Shanghai was set up in 2000. Ms. Murray said what they call Team Ireland have offices in Shanghai: including IDA Ireland dealing with Investment; Enterprise Ireland; the Food Board (Bord Bia); and Tourism Ireland.

They have a solid foundation and sustainable partnerships here, which is very import to maintaining and strengthening the relationship between the two countries, she added.


Ms. Murray will stay in Shanghai for the Chinese New Year. "I will cycle around to enjoy quiet roads as I explore the city." She extended her best wishes for the year of the Pig, "to see a continuing growth and development of our warm and close relationship."


Story by Wang Jiaye
Video by Xu Yiran


Consul Generals' New Year Greetings

Executive producers: Zhao Xiaolei, Cao Jun

Reporters: Wang Jiaye, Wu Qiong, Zheng Qian, Lu Yukun, Xu Yiran

Designers: Wei Zhengdian, Jin Kunyao