Remarks by H.E. Xu Jianguo, Chinese Ambassador to Ireland, at his Farewell Reception
(As delivered on 17 May 2016)
Honorable Speaker, Mr. Seán Ó Fearghaíl,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you all for coming this evening to bid me and my wife farewell.
Both my wife and I have greatly enjoyed working and living in Dublin. How time flies! Obviously, time flies faster when one is happy.
As I'm going to conclude my term at the end of this month as Chinese Ambassador to Ireland, I'd like to share with you a few observations:
First and foremost, I am happy and proud to note that China's relationship with Ireland is better than ever, and it is important to maintain and even further increase that momentum.
Secondly, there is always potential for further growth and even closer relations. There are some excellent examples to follow among some other EU member states.
Thirdly, the leaders of our two countries have fostered very good working relationships and personal friendship with each other.
As Ambassador, I was lucky to have been involved in two important top-level visits in the past two years. In December 2014, Irish President Michael D. Higgins paid a very successful state visit to China. And exactly one year ago, on the 17th of May 2015, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang had a memorable visit to the west of Ireland.
Fourthly, encouraging progress is being made in the pragmatic cooperation between Ireland and China in various fields. For example, China has been Ireland's largest trading partner in Asia for the past nine years. Bilateral trade has increased against the backdrop of global trade decline. China has grown into the second largest export market for Irish dairy products and Irish pork. In the past few years, the export of Irish dairy products to China has been growing at double-digit rates.
Two-way investment is also on a rise. Starting from a low base, the total of Chinese investments in Ireland has exceeded 3 billion U.S. dollars. The number of visitors from China to Ireland grew by 10% in 2014, and 11% in 2015. An increasing number of Chinese students are coming to Ireland for further studies, which is a development I warmly welcome.
It is self-evident that our countries are very different geographically and culturally, but economically we complement each other. We are partners rather than competitors. Because of our geographical and cultural differences, our peoples find the other country fascinating; when we visit one another, we would have a lot to explore, exchange and share.
Fifthly, all the political parties in Ireland want to strengthen Ireland's relations with China. There is a general consensus regarding China's growing importance across the public and private sectors in Ireland. I have been greatly impressed by the increasing interest in China among Irish politicians, officials and people. Many Irish friends agree with me that there is great potential for mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries. Many would share my optimism about the future of Ireland-China relations.
May I say at the personal level that I was honoured to be the Chinese Ambassador here in Ireland during the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Easter Rising, which were conducted with great dignity and respect for the past.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
When I reflect on China's relations with Ireland, I am encouraged and heartened by the great progress that has been made, but there are some attainable goals remaining. I look forward to the day when I can get on a flight in China and fly directly into Dublin airport; I know that great efforts are being made to achieve this goal and I encourage everyone involved to work closely together to make it happen.
Second goal is to quicken the pace of the introduction of the Chinese language into the Irish educational system. I am delighted with the progress already being made by the Department of Education and Skills. I look forward to the introduction of Mandarin on the Leaving Certificate syllabus.
Finally, as we get closer ties between our two countries, my Embassy colleagues and I do our very best to make our Visa application system as easy as possible to use, so as to facilitate travel between our two countries. I know that the Department of Justice in Ireland is constantly reviewing the Irish Visa application system, and I look forward to the day when our two systems work in perfect harmony.
A bilateral relationship between two countries is a complex package comprising many components and ingredients. People from different walks of life would take interest in different aspects – political, economic, cultural, technological, educational, etc. It takes all the participants in bilateral interactions to foster a productive and fruitful relationship.
Ireland and China are far from each other, different in size, political system, culture and values. So, we should make efforts to learn more about each other and get a better understanding of each other, on the basis of such principles as equality, sincerity, mutual respect, and mutual benefit. These principles can help bridge differences, reduce misunderstandings, strengthen mutual respect, and expand common interests.
In the first few decades of China-Ireland relations, bilateral trade was minimal, very few people traveled between Beijing and Dublin, the cake of shared interests was tiny and negligible. Decades of fast economic development in both countries have brought enormous changes. Both countries have been transformed. As an outgoing Ambassador, I wish to encourage both Governments to think more strategically about, and plan strategically for, the future of bilateral relations.
I think it would be rewarding if our two Governments could conduct a comprehensive review of China-Ireland relations, with a view to identifying opportunities, clarifying priorities and formulating an up-to-date strategy for further enhancing links and friendship.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Over the years many friends have offered valuable support, help and advice to the Chinese Embassy. I'd like to take this opportunity to say "Thank You" to them all.
I wish to express appreciation and gratitude to many people in Ireland for their respective contributions to China-Ireland relations. My heartfelt thanks go not only to Irish Ministers, TDs, Secretaries General, CEOs and other senior officials in the Irish Government, but also to diplomatic colleagues, and many, many friends from various sectors and institutions, some of whom are present here today.
It is friendship that has made my life here in Ireland so enjoyable and memorable. I hope that my successor, Ambassador Yue Xiaoyong, will enjoy working in Ireland as much as I have. I'm sure he will, if he receives as much support and cooperation from you as I have enjoyed.
The Chinese community in Ireland is a significant contributor not only to the development of this country but also to Ireland's ties with China. I have enjoyed friendship and support from many members of the Chinese community here. Please allow me to say a few words of appreciation to them in Chinese.
I would also like to say "Thank Yo" to my great Embassy team, for everything you have done for me in the past two years. I hope I have been a good boss. I hope you will remember me as a friend.
On the 31st of May, my wife and I will depart from Dublin for Beijing, taking home many, many sweet memories. We will miss this beautiful country, which will always be held close to our hearts. We will not forget our friends here. We will continue to read news reports about Ireland, and we will certainly continue to do what we can, to bring the Chinese people and Irish people closer together.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please raise your glasses, and join me in a toast
to a better future, and
to everlasting friendship!