Chapter 7: Sino-Irish Relations – The View From China ~ The Irish Asia Strategy And Its China Relations

IrishAsia“Formerly we thought than the foundation of our wealth would be established if only western methods were stressed, and that the result would be achieved immediately…unfortunately, we are merely copying the superficialities of the western methods, getting only the name but very little substance…superficial imitation is not so good as arousing intellectual curiosity. The forges and hammers of factories cannot be compared with the apparatus of people’s minds.”
Wang T’ao 1870[i]

For much of the past thirty years both China and Ireland have been involved in radical reform programmes that have placed their respective governments to the fore. In taking the strategic decision to open their economies to the outside world, learning, experimenting with and harnessing new ideas and technologies to the service of their societies each can be said to have achieved an astounding level of success. Neither has allowed themselves the comfort of introversion, working with particular effectiveness since the end of the Cold War to move from the periphery to the centre of the international system. In doing so both countries have found greater opportunities to express and develop their own voice, discovering significant common ground along the way. Both are united in their commitment to a more balanced and effective international system, the maintenance of a peaceful international environment in which countries committed to economic development can seek, find and take advantage of opportunities.
While these distant neighbours find themselves on the opposite extremities of the Eurasian continent it is the similarities between them that draw them together. Both call upon a considerable heritage of cultural and technological innovation in the crafting of their self image. If their political philosophies and social systems have developed along very different tracks then this should not diminish a profound respect for each others successes – few other countries can claim to have so successfully turned the forces of globalisation to the service of their societies.
What follows in this chapter is an insight into the way that China views Ireland. The chapter unfolds first by summarising the general perception of Ireland that exists in China today. Subsequent sections explore the different strands that have contributed to this perception setting these against larger trends in China’s transformation. The final section suggests that for Sino-Irish trends to continue their positive arc much will have to be done to orchestrate an increasingly disparate and potentially fractious set of relations.

7.1 Ireland: A View from Afar
Perhaps unsurprisingly Ireland has not captured the imagination of the average Chinese citizen, most of whom have enjoyed only sporadic and limited encounters with things Irish. There is for example little awareness of the distinctive role Irish individuals have played in the shaping of Chinese relations with the rest of the world, whether through the intercession of Lord McCartney, first envoy of Britain to China or the intervention of Sir Robert Hart in establishing the Imperial maritime custom service which helped prolong the twilight of Qing dynasty. Aierlan, where it exists at all dwells in the collective imagination as a jumble of images and pubic figures spanning the breathtaking beauty of the Cliffs of Moher to Roy Keane, Riverdance and a host of Nobel Prize winners.
Among China’s elite the conception of Ireland is more complex if still partial. The young tiger’s colonial past, its consequent struggle for recognition, and determination to lift itself out of poverty strike a chord with Chinese experience. Beyond these impressions Ireland’s desire to pursue a neutral path in world affairs based on the international rule of law, one respectful of the one-China principle resonates strongly with a Chinese worldview that places multi-polarity and cooperative, consultative approaches to problem solving to the fore. If there are nuances and occasional contradictions to this policy they neither detract nor deviate from Beijing’s fundamental commitment to the creation and maintenance of a stable international environment, built upon the five principles of peaceful coexistence: mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and finally peaceful coexistence sensitive to the needs of developing countries.
Such perceptions are both relatively new and tentative, being formed in the flurry of activity that began towards the end of the 1990s. It is during this period, the height of the Celtic tiger phenomenon that frequent Chinese trips, often with sponsorship from Irish state agencies such as Enterprise Ireland began to generate awareness bringing clarity and substance to what would have otherwise been a relationship of mutual indifference. Read more

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Chapter 8: Promoting Irish Business In China – The Role Of The Government ~ The Irish Asia Strategy And Its China Relations

IrishAsiaThe Irish Trade mission that arrived in Beijing on January 16th 2005 was led by the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. The fact that he was accompanied by no less than four cabinet ministers (Minister Micheál Martin; Minister Mary Coughlan; Minister Mary Hanafin and Minister Noel Dempsey) served to underscore the importance of this particular mission. The trade mission visited Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong and, while the overall management and logistics for the business events were handled by Enterprise Ireland, many other state agencies and private industry associations participated in the mission in some way. Representatives of Irish agencies such as Bord Bia, Tourism Ireland and Shannon Development and members of associations such as IBEC, ISA, Chambers Ireland, and the Irish Exporters Association organised events, working closely with Enterprise Ireland to ensure the success of the visit.
This particular trade mission was in fact the largest ever organised in the history of the state until that time, involving a total of 121 Irish companies and institutions, primarily from in the ICT, Educational Services, Environmental and Engineering Services, Medical Devices and the Food and Drinks sectors. Around 300 Irish people (company executives and officials) travelled on what was an extremely successful but very complex mission. This event marked the culmination of the first stage of a process of engagement with China that had its origins some 6 years earlier – with the publication of the Asia Strategy in 1999.

Enterprise Ireland was set up in early 1998 through the merger of a number of other agencies (including Forbairt and the Irish Trade Board) and charged with responsibility for the overall development of Irish-owned industry. While within Ireland the organisation is involved in many aspects of the growth and development of Irish companies, a very important role of the agency involves the promotion of exports by Irish companies in overseas markets. Though the core of the overseas work involves making introductions for Irish executives to potential customers and partners and providing on-the-ground assistance in countries around the world, in the more distant markets, and especially in Asia, trade missions led by high level Government figures are very important in raising the image of Ireland generally – and of Ireland as a source of top quality products and services.

In late 1998 the Taoiseach had made his first official visit to China and Enterprise Ireland organised its first trade mission to accompany that visit. On that occasion only around 20 companies accompanied the official delegation. Given the recent developments in the China market it was obvious that Ireland’s overall level of engagement with the country was abysmally low and, following the visit, the Taoiseach requested a group of officials and private sector individuals to develop a coherent national strategy that would put Ireland on a stronger footing in terms of its overall relationship with Asia and with China in particular. The document that resulted from the deliberations of that committee was published in early 1999 as the Asia Strategy.
As the lead agency in terms of the development of Irish industry and the promotion of Irish exports, Enterprise Ireland was heavily involved in the development of the Asia Strategy – and its own plans for the growth of exports to Asia formed an integral part of the plans outlined in the published document.
Though the Irish Trade Board had initially established an office in Beijing in 1979, in the same year in which Ireland exchanged diplomatic relations with China, Irish exports to China were always at a low level due to the closed nature of the market and the difficulties faced by Irish companies in trying to access such a distant, different and under-developed market. By 1999 the situation was of course very different: China was developing rapidly and opening up to the global economy – and it was obvious that, in the years to come, the Chinese economy was going to continue to grow at a rapid pace. Following the publication of the Asia Strategy in 1999, Enterprise Ireland moved quickly to strengthen its operations in China, with offices in Beijing and in Shanghai (the two most developed cities in the country) and a further office in Hong Kong, which covered the southern part of the country, including the industrial powerhouse of Shenzhen.
In comparison with other countries in the EU Ireland has had very little history of engagement at a business level with China. While multinational companies with operations in Ireland always traded with Asia, this was to a large extent dictated by their global business strategies. In the early days of industrialisation in Ireland our larger companies, such as those in the food and drinks sectors were generally confined to selling into European and US markets. It was not until the development of new processing technologies and the growth of the software and services sectors that Irish industry acquired the right products and the economies of scale required to tackle the more distant markets in Asia. In addition, unlike countries such as the Netherlands and the UK that have companies that can trace their origins back to older national trading empires and that have had operations in Asia for many years, Ireland lacked a basic network in the region upon which to build new business. Read more

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Chapter 9: Friendship Between Citizens – The Twinning Of Cities ~ The Irish Asia Strategy and Its China Relations

In “A Decade of the Asia Strategy”[i], it is noted that Twinning Initiatives between Irish and Asian cities, towns and regions can assist the further development of personal and business relationships. The concept is popular in Asia and it has a positive contribution to make in strengthening country-to-country ties, facilitating the development of business relationships that require a foundation of mutual confidence and trust. China is a priority country in the Asia Strategy.
On 19th May 2005, the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government and Cork City Council concluded a Sister City Agreement in Cork City Hall. The agreement was signed by the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Sean Martin and the Chairman of the Shanghai People’s Congress, Mr. Gong Xue Ping. The text of the agreement is set out in Appendix I (see below). Key principles are the benefits that the relationship will bring to the citizens of both cities and the focus on collaborative projects that “deliver tangible results and on co-operations that will give the citizens of both cities an opportunity to meet and work together, thus increasing mutual understanding”.
A Memorandum of Understanding establishing a further five year programme was signed on March 27th 2009 in the Shanghai City Hall by the Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Patricia Gosch and the Vice Mayor of the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, Mr. Tang Dingjie. This programme will focus on City Government, Education, Business, Culture and Tourism. A copy of the Memorandum of Understanding is set out in Appendix II (see below).

This chapter describes Cork City Council’s experience of the Sister City relationship with Shanghai and the contribution of this process to the achievement of the objectives of the Asia Strategy. It will examine the background to the project, principal activities, barriers and future plans.

The Shanghai – Cork Sister Cities Project is a formal agreement between the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government and Cork City Council to provide a framework for co-operation projects between the two cities. The purpose is to develop deep and long-lasting ties between the citizens and organisations of both cities that will promote mutual understanding and bring benefits to the participants. Whilst it is recognised that the development of trade is the primary objective of the Asia Strategy, the purpose of the Sister City Project is wider, encompassing local government, business, education, culture and tourism, in the development of close contacts between the two cities.
The initial contacts between the cities in 2002 and 2003 were fostered by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland, Dr. Sha Hailin[ii]. The Irish Consuls General in Shanghai, Geoffrey Keating[iii] (2000-04), Nicholas O’Brien (2004–08) and Conor O’Riordan (2008-present) have also fully supported the process. Since 2002, the Irish Government has operated a Shanghai Intern Programme for officials from Shanghai. These officials visited Cork in 2002 and 2003 and, following preliminary discussions, both city administrations agreed to explore more formal links. University College Cork had also developed links with a number of Chinese universities and had over 100 Chinese students in 2003.
In February 2004, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Colm Burke, made an official visit to Shanghai at the invitation of the Shanghai Municipal Government and was accompanied by the City Manager – Joe Gavin; President of Cork Chamber – Robin O’Sullivan; Prof. Kevin Collins and Prof. Gabriel Crean of University College Cork. This delegation was met by Vice Mayor Yan Junqi (who is currently the vice chairwoman of standing committee of the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China and the chairwoman of China Association for Promoting Democracy) and also visited Fudan University, which already has links with University College Cork.
On returning from Shanghai, Cork City Council established the Shanghai Project Group to manage the developing relationship with Shanghai. The members were drawn initially from Cork City Council, Cork Chamber and University College Cork. The current membership is set out in Appendix III. This project group meets quarterly to review progress and develop new projects. Read more

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Chapter 10: Connecting Cultures – The Role Of Education ~ The Irish Asia Strategy and Its China Relations

Throughout the 1990s education increasingly became an export commodity for “first world” nations. This growth in the international education market was enabled by the increasing wealth in developing nations. The drivers of the trend also included limited availability of higher education places in developing nations; desire to access knowledge and technology; to learn respectable English language skills; and to make foreign contacts. In addition, the roles of fashion and the societal pressure to have foreign educated offspring should not be under-estimated.

Ireland is an English speaking nation with a credible education brand and it was well positioned to benefit from this trend. In recent times, therefore, education has naturally been a constant thread in the main political speeches on Irish/Asian relations and in the key strategy documents on the matter.
The Irish government’s Asia Strategy has been the touchstone of the Irish government’s efforts to build relations and support and stimulate economic and cultural activity with Asia. This short paper reviews and considers the role of education in the Irish government’s Asia Strategy over the decade from its inception in 1999 towards the end of its second 5 year period in 2009, specifically in connection with China. It also reviews the political will, some key events and finally UCC’s practical experience with its Institute of Chinese Studies.
It will be seen that education has assumed an importance wider than simply that of a valuable export sector; rather that it is increasingly recognised as an agent of intercultural awareness and a key enabler of future business relationships.

Ireland’s Asia Strategy has been supported by high level political exchanges. Education was highlighted by these exchanges. Bertie Ahern, Prime Minister of Ireland (the Taoiseach), visited China in January 2005. The Taoiseach was accompanied by the Minister for Education and Science, Mary Hanafin and by the heads of Irish Universities and Colleges. One of the objectives of the visit was “To increase awareness of Ireland’s education system and the links being established between Chinese and Irish institutions” and in the course of the visit agreements were signed in matters of education and scientific research. Bertie Ahern’s speeches were laced with references to education and culture and he made reference to an agreement that had been signed between Shanghai Fudan University and Trinity College Dublin.

When Brian Cowen visited China in 2008 he was similarly accompanied by the Education Minister, this time Batt O’Keeffe. Mr Cowen recognised achievements in the development of educational ties between Ireland and China and concluded, “There have been some important milestones in the rapid development of our bilateral educational cooperation”. He noted the level of activity of Irish Institutions in China and the importance of Chinese students to Ireland.
He hoped the numbers of Chinese students in Ireland would grow but also stated that he wanted to see more Irish students come to study in China as well.
The prominence given to education in speeches on these visits demonstrates awareness at the highest levels of the importance of education in Ireland’s dealings with China. Mr Cowen was speaking at a later moment in the decade of the Asia Strategy and was able to draw on specific examples of progress. Mr Cowen’s wish to see more Irish students studying in China appears to evidence a growing awareness that the opportunity in education in terms of the strategy extended beyond education as an export commodity for Ireland; and that the human contacts he referred to would be the foundation of Irish-Chinese business into the future beyond the impetus of the initial Asia Strategy. Read more

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Chapter 11: Comparing Irish And Chinese Politics Of Regulation ~ The Irish Asia Strategy And Its China Relations

IrishAsiaIn its Asia Strategy, the Irish Government calls for closer cooperation between Europe and Asia and a higher profile of Irish business, society and politics in this core region of the global economy. While the focus in general rests on trade and investment, there is one area where Ireland as Europe’s Celtic Tiger has much to share with its distant partners: regulatory reform and innovation as a key driver for economic modernisation and competitiveness. From an academic perspective, the analysis of regulatory regimes, states and capitalisms has enjoyed years of impressive development. While some have focused on a better understanding of the evolution of regulation and their impact on political systems or the world economy, a second stream in regulation research seeks criteria for an evaluation of existing regulation and the promotion of better regulation. Case studies from different jurisdictions are frequently used to highlight practical and theoretical issues. In this paper, the experience of two states experiencing impressive rates of economic growth but exhibiting contrasting political systems are analysed to isolate areas of convergence in regulatory development. China and Ireland are of vastly different size but the Middle Kingdom dwarfs most other states. The comparison is, however, made more plausible by Ireland’s need to accommodate EU regulatory strictures and China’s adjustment to an open market economy. Further, though small, Ireland does not operate in an international political vacuum. Like other western democracies that are “open, integrated, and rule-based, with wide and deep political foundations”[i] and, as such, represents a typical liberal democracy. Nevertheless, to acknowledge the clear differences between the cases chosen, the paper concentrates on aspects of the Irish experience that might signal useful insights for China in the areas of transparency, innovation and competition.

Thirty years after the Chinese leadership initiated the policies of reform and opening up to the outside world, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is a remarkable economic success story and an increasingly opaque puzzle for academic research. Its ‘Socialism with Chinese Chracteristics’ has seen average annual growth rates of more than 10% since 1980. By World Bank standards, China in 2006 was the fourth largest economy in the world, a major trading nation and holder of the largest foreign exchange reserves. At the same time, its ‘Socialist Market Economy’ exhibits fundamentally contradictory features: while there are comparatively free markets in some sectors of the economy that tempt observers to compare today’s China with the Manchester of the early 19th century, private property rights have only recently found their way into the constitution and are still subject to the interpretation and protection by a judiciary under direct control of the political leadership. China’s rule by law – not to confuse with the concept of rule of law – is executed by courts and bureaucracies under direct control of the Leninist apparatus of the Communist Party of China, which, according to the constitution, leads all Chinese political institutions and exerts the democratic centralism as part of the dictatorship of the people.

The interdependence of social orders that links the existence of a market order with a pluralist democratic system that guarantees rule of law points at an implicit instability of China’s political and social order. But, while doomsayers had their fair share of academic and public interest in the 1990s, the survival of CCP rule in spite of fundamental changes in the economic and social system requires further analysis. There is no consensus among China watchers on the nature of its political order. Characterisations include soft authoritarian, adaptive authoritarian and neo-consociational. Similary, opinion on the direction of its future development ranges from enhanced state capacity stabilising party rule to decreased state capacity destablising the CCP. It is obvious nevertheless that somehow China’s hybrid political and economic order is a survivor.
Part of an explanation how exactly the Chinese leadership has managed to maintain political control and economic dominance in an increasingly pluralist social and market economic environment lies in its proven track record in institutional learning and innovation. At the same time, a global trend towards the introduction of new forms of governance, particularly of quasi-independent regulatory bodies, is recalibrating the traditional relationship between governments, societies and markets in well-established OECD countries as well as in emerging markets.
While the rise of the regulatory state, the post-regulatory state and regulatory capitalism has led to an intensive debate about efficiency and legitimacy, its implications for non-democratic states with emerging market orders has been painfully neglected.[ii] The global trend to redefine the relationship between governments and markets, between state and non-state actors in the area of economic activity, however, has changed the perception of social orders and has a direct impact on the institutional and policy change of states in an interdependent world. Read more

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Chapter 12: Ireland And The ASEM Process: The Case Of The Asia-Europe Foundation ~The Irish Asia Strategy And Its China Relations

IrishAsiaIreland’s Asia Strategy is also embedded in the context of the wider relationship between the European Union and Asia. The relationship has been dramatically transformed from one of European political and economic dominance to a partnership of equals”. Dermot Ahern, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 2006.[i]

The inaugural Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)[ii] was convened in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1996, in a uniquely ambitious endeavour to build a multi-faceted platform where Asia and Europe could encounter each another in a modern context. This innovative model of engagement, with its emphasis on a flexible structure and informal dialogue, arose from a mutual recognition that the relationship between the two regions needed to be strengthened in light of the increasing interdependence in the economic, social and political spheres. The ASEM process as it has developed is based on an equal partnership and its activities are grouped into three pillars: political, economic and socio-cultural.

ASEM has its roots in the recognition in Asia and in Europe that the relationship between the two regions requires strengthening taking into account the growing importance of Asia and the integrating and enlarging Europe.
The three pillars of ASEM – political, economic, social/cultural/intellectual – have allowed for increasingly intensive engagement between the two regions since the outset of the process.
The process was driven largely from the Asian side with much of the initial impulse coming from Singapore. On the European side the push for improved interaction and greater co-operation came from the European Commission. Despite preoccupation with the implementation of the Maastricht Treaty provisions for the launching of the single currency programme, the European Commission responded positively and facilitated the inaugural meeting of the Heads of Government from the EU and East Asia in Bangkok. The fact of the meeting taking place was an important indicator of a readiness to engage more effectively in mutually beneficial interaction. Subsequent discussion between officials from both sides set out tentative procedures to be pursued.

In the words of Kishore Mahubani, the Singaporean diplomat charged by his Government with the task of convincing the European and Asian Governments to join in the initiative to develop ASEM, the rationale was simple. “There were three major growth centres in the world: North America, East Asia and Europe. In this triangular relationship, the connection between North America and Europe was strong, so too was the transpacific connection between North America and East Asia. The missing link was the relationship between Europe and East Asia”[iii]. Three years into the process, a review of the progress by a Vision Group of eminent persons was initiated. The report of the Vision Group makes interesting reading; the Group saw
“the gradual integration of Asia and Europe into an area of peace and shared development, a prosperous common living sphere in the 21st century, a sphere in which our knowledge, wealth, cultural heritage, democratic ideals, educational assets, intellectual aspirations are closely intertwined and exchanged without barriers or constraints. [The group] envision the active integration of our intellectual forces and a vibrant exchange of culture and the arts between Europe and Asia…[and] also visualise the progressive opening of markets with the eventual goal of free flow of goods and services by the year 2025”.[iv] Read more

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