(Dublin, 20 February 2014)
Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett,
Minister Simon Coveney,
Minister Jimmy Deenihan,
Minister Frances Fitzgerald,
Minister James Reilly,
Dean of the diplomatic corps, Dear Colleagues,
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you all so much for attending my farewell reception. I arrived in Dublin on August 26th, 2011, and I will be concluding my tenure as the 11th Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Ireland at the end of this month.
At this moment, my heart is filled with gratitude, reluctance and hope.
I wish to take this opportunity to say "Thank You" and to give my best wishes for the future to all those who are keen to see the development of China-Ireland relations continue and who have so graciously and generously supported the work of the Chinese Embassy.
During my "short but intense" two and a half years' tenure, I have been fortunate enough to witness and participate in two great events: Mr. Xi Jinping's visit to Ireland in February 2012, and the Taoiseach's visit to China one month later. These two visits have elevated the friendly ties between China and Ireland to a historically new high point, and have ushered in a new era for us to build a Strategic Partnership for Mutually Beneficial Cooperation.
President Xi was so impressed and pleased with his successful visit to Ireland that he now keeps in his office, next to pictures of his family, a photograph of him kicking Gaelic football at Croak Park, and this picture is one of the only six photos in his office.
Last Thursday when I paid a farewell courtesy call to the Taoiseach, Mr. Kenny reaffirmed his personal commitment to Ireland's Strategic Partnership with China.
The important consensus reached between our top national leaders has not only indicated and illuminated the direction of China-Ireland relations, but it has also created fresh, strong impetus for the development of shared interests.
Last year was equally eventful and fruitful. Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai made a productive trip to Ireland, and the visits to China by Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett and Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore were also very successful.
As far as I know, nearly two thirds of the Irish Cabinet members have already visited China, and several more Irish ministers will make trips to China this year. Besides, I have also received nearly 30 ministers or vice ministers from China.
I'm particularly pleased that China has been Ireland's largest trading partner in Asia for seven consecutive years. In 2013, the bilateral trade volume increased by 10.5% to 6.67 billion U.S. dollars, with Ireland maintaining a trade surplus. Chinese investment in Ireland is also on the rise. I am hopeful and confident that the positive momentum will continue into the future, for there is enormous potential in the mutually beneficial cooperation between Ireland and China in trade, investment, education, culture, science and technology and other areas.
More and more Chinese students choose to further their academic studies in Ireland; I myself have come across quite a few postdoctoral researchers and PhD students from China. Scientists and technicians of our countries have come together in many different projects, complementing one another with their respective experiences and expertise. Cultural exchanges between China and Ireland are not only on the rise but also proving commercially viable. Riverdance has had extremely successfully tours in over 40 Chinese cities, and the Irish dancers and musicians have drawn inspirational elements from the ancient Chinese civilization.
My tenure was an important period for the development of enhanced relations between our countries. It has been my privilege to witness the significant endeavours and strides that Ireland has made to address its economic challenges. I share your joy and pride in Ireland's exit from the Troika bailout.
I would like to once again warmly congratulate the Taoiseach and the Irish Government on this remarkable achievement.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have been to nearly half of the counties and cities in Ireland. I have been greatly impressed by the beauty of Ireland and the friendliness of the Irish people.
When I was asked by Taoiseach Kenny to comment on Ireland, I said: "The air is quite clean; the grass is very green; and Irish people are so serene." The Taoiseach smiled and responded with a poetic and somewhat sentimental line of lyrics, from an old song: "Preserve your memories; they're all that's left you."
The 900 plus days that my wife and I have spent here in Ireland will be a cherished part of our memories. We have indeed fallen in love with Ireland. When we depart, with sadness and reluctance, what we will take with us is far more than fond memories of Ireland's clean air, green grass and wisdom in serenity; we will keep in our memories many images of a unique culture that reveals the admirable Celtic spirit – the harp, Riverdance, hurling, Gaelic football, Guinness, to name just a few. Undoubtedly, my wife and I will also rejoice in our fond memories of Irish people – we will never forget your friendliness, your hospitality, your humour, and your passion for fine and fast horses.
We will miss a lot about Ireland. But what we will miss most is the numerous friends we have made here in the past two and a half years. It is your staunch support and kind assistance that have made my life and work here so merry, memorable and meaningful! Thanks a million!
Let me assure you that my departure will not reduce or change my firm commitment to support the blossoming ties between China and Ireland which are already bearing fruit. The passage of time will never reduce or dilute my feelings for Ireland and the Irish people. Wherever I am accredited next, I will continue to keep my eyes open for opportunities to do what I can to contribute to the friendship between our two countries.
Before my departure, I want to say something to my countrymen in Ireland: Accomplishments in the history of China-Ireland relations would not have been attainable without the support of the local Chinese communities, Chinese students and Chinese companies in Ireland. I'm much appreciative of your contributions. On behalf of the Chinese Embassy in Dublin, I thank you all for your great endeavours and unfailing support.
To my Embassy staff, let me take this opportunity to put on record that I truly appreciate everything you have done for me and my wife in the past two and a half years. I will stay in touch. Please keep me informed!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
You have all treated me so nicely. I hope you will accord the same hospitality, support and friendship to my successor, Ambassador Xu Jianguo. It is my hope and belief that continued joint efforts by both sides will open up new prospects for China-Ireland relations and the people of both our countries will enjoy more tangible benefits of a solid, enhanced and substantiated strategic partnership.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please raise your glasses and join me in a toast
To the prosperity of both Ireland and China,
To the happiness of our peoples,
To the robust development of the China-Ireland strategic partnership, and
To everlasting friendship!
Ganbei! Cheers! Sláinte!