Senior government officials in China’s economic powerhouse Shanghai have hailed their city’s twinning link with Cork as one of their most successful.

The officials — who have overseen phenomenal economic growth in the sprawling city, including a doubling of the value of its import-export business to Ireland alone since 2010 to a staggering $2.1bn (€1.88bn) — said they see further potential for growth and are anxious to work with Irish businesses.

And as they embark on an ambitious new economic development strategy to position Shanghai as one of the world’s leading science, research, and innovation hubs, they have issued an open invitation to Irish businesses to engage with them.

Talks are also taking place in Shanghai this week about exploring possible research links with UCC, CIT, the Tyndall, and the Rubicon Centre. This emerged yesterday at an economic and trade forum in Shanghai to mark the 10th anniversary of its twinning link with Cork.

Shanghai, which has 25m people, is eyeing further cultural and research links with Ireland
Shanghai, which has 25m people, is eyeing further cultural and research links with Ireland

Shao Huixiang, the deputy director general of the Shanghai municipal foreign affairs office, said the twinning has been one of the most successful of the 70 or so such foreign links his office manages: “We don’t measure success by the size of the cities but rather the quality of the relations and Cork is one of the most successful.”

Gu Jun, the deputy director general of the Shanghai municipal commission of commerce, briefed the forum on Shanghai’s phenomenal economic growth in recent years.

It has 790,000 foreign direct investment projects currently under way, is home to over 500 multi-nationals, and accounts for an incredible one third of China’s total trade output.

A free trade zone in the city which was expanded last year as a pilot project to “open Shanghai to the world”, combined with a complete overhaul of its trading policies and laws, helped create 20,000 new companies in the city and drive its phenomenal economic growth.

But now the city is ramping up with ambitious plans to become one of the world’s greatest centres for science, research and innovation.

“We will adopt an open mindset to encourage foreign companies to locate here,” said Mr Gu.

Jin Liang, the vice chairperson of the Shanghai federation of industry and commerce, said the city’s economy and private sector is adopting a “go global” vision, with some 620 outbound investments of $23bn — up 266% year on year.

Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary, who is leading the Cork delegation in Shanghai, said the success of the twinning link helps position Cork to benefit from some of this growth.

“The next stage is to use these relationships to continue to drive business opportunities.

“One of the key missions will be to promote Cork’s strengths in technology, health, environmental management, energy, research and development, education, food and tourism to Shanghai firms working in these areas.

“There are also opportunities with private Shanghai investors — witness the recent investments in hotels in Cork that will bring more Chinese visitors to Cork.”

Cork’s Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary and his wife Angela with Shanghai students at Huangpu Youth Arts Center. A delegation from Cork is in Shanghai to mark the 10th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities
Cork’s Lord Mayor Chris O’Leary and his wife Angela with Shanghai students at Huangpu Youth Arts Center. A delegation from Cork is in Shanghai to mark the 10th anniversary of the twinning of the two cities

Cork Chamber president Barrie O’Connell said education-focused and shared service operations will be the most likely form of of future inbound Chinese investment to Ireland.

  • The value of trade between Ireland and China is now worth €8bn which rose 49% in 2014 over 2013, he said;
  • 92 Irish companies employ more than 10,000 people in China;
  • Over 5,000 Chinese students are attending Irish institutions — UCC has more than 700 alumni in China.

“Ireland is home to four of the top five Chinese banks involved in aircraft leasing operations, outside China.

“And three of the top five Chinese tech companies also have operations in Ireland.”


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