Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping answered written questions from the Irish Times about China-Ireland relations and other issues, prior to his visit to the European country.
The following is a transcript of the questions and answers.
Q: What is the main purpose of your visit to Ireland? What outcomes can be expected from the visit?
A: Ireland, also known as "the Emerald Isle," is well known in China, and the Chinese people cherish friendly sentiments towards this country. Riverdance has many Chinese fans. Theatres are packed every time the show comes to China.
The institutional innovation and economic miracles in Ireland have offered China much food for thought in conducting reform and opening up.
The sons and daughters of Irish descent enjoy the great admiration of the Chinese people with their enterprising spirit and enormous contribution to development around the world.
I visited Ireland in 2003 and was deeply impressed by the country' s natural beauty and achievements in its development. At the invitation of Prime Minister Enda Kenny, I am coming to Ireland on an official visit for an in-depth exchange of views with Irish leaders on China-Ireland relations, looking for ways to further our friendship and practical cooperation and to bring our relationship to a new high. We also hope that Ireland will play a greater role in the European Union (EU) in promoting China-EU relations.
During the visit, the relevant authorities of the two countries will sign a series of cooperation documents in addition to holding the China-Ireland Trade and Investment Forum. I hope that our business communities will take the opportunity to reach some cooperation agreements and advance the solid implementation of our mutually beneficial co-operative projects.
Q: How would you describe the current state of Sino-Irish relations? What expectations do you have for bilateral cooperation in future?
A: In the past 30 years and more since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China and Ireland have always respected each other and treated each other as equals. Though different in system and culture, we have not let those differences hinder our exchanges and cooperation.
Our trade and economic relations are win-win and mutually beneficial. Two-way trade in 2011 reached 5.87 billion U.S. dollars (4.5 billion euros). For five consecutive years, China has been Ireland' s largest trading partner in Asia. And in the past three years, Ireland has run a surplus in its trade with China.
Cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries have been very fruitful. Right now, Ireland hosts over 10,000 Chinese students, more than any other EU country on a per capita basis.
To build a closer China-Ireland relationship serves the common interests of both countries and peoples. We hope that the two sides will make new progress in our cooperation in the following three areas:
First, we should maintain close high-level contacts and enhance inter-agency exchanges at various levels with a view to increasing political mutual trust and cooperation in bilateral and multilateral affairs.
Second, we should pursue common development and bring our mutually beneficial cooperation to a higher and broader level. It is of particular importance for us to fully tap the cooperation potential in biotechnology, communication technology, agriculture and other priority areas and scale up two-way trade and investment.
Third, we should intensify cultural and people-to-people exchanges. We should encourage cultural and arts groups and artists from both countries to interact and co-operate, create favourable conditions for exchanges in tourism, education and other sectors, and further elevate the level of our cooperation.
China is optimistic about the prospects of China-Ireland cooperation. We hope that the two countries will continue to support each other, learn from each other and make progress together on the path of development through cooperation.