Twinningship, Friendship and Win-win Cooperation
——Speech at the Local Government Summit held by Asia Matters

(Ambassador Yue Xiaoyong, 11 January 2019, IPA)

Ambassador H.E. Mr. Eoin O’Leary,

Chairman Mr. Alan Dukes,

Chairperson Ms. Jackie Maguire

Ladies, Gentlemen, and Friends,

Good afternoon.

It is my great pleasure to be invited to attend the Asia Matters Local Government Summit with so many friends and leading personalities at present. As you know, we just celebrated the new year of 2019 and are going to celebrate the Spring Festival, the Chinese Lunar New Year of the Pig, a year symbolizing new opportunities, prosperity, sharing, contribution and cooperation. I would take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Chinese lunar new year in advance.

The year of 2019 is also the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Ireland. As Confucius teachings put it, at the age of 40, one would become really smart and wise, meaning that when you reached the age of 40, you know where you are going and firm with your goal. That is exactly what has happened regarding China-Ireland relations. We are clearer than ever for where our relationship would go ---- for deeper friendship, greater common development and better win-win cooperation. And I would share with you my views on that trend, focusing on the fields of bilateral local governmental friendly exchanges and cooperation.

Those relations of local governments are growing fast and playing an important role in our bilateral relations in general. The general situation is good and sound. Since 1973, 31 provincial level governments and 490 cities in China have established 2618 pairs of twinningship with their counterparts from all together 136 countries. This dosen’t include Taiwan, for the time being, as you know, a part of China. All that twinningship has played strong and positive role in the development of China’s provinces, autonomous regions, municipal cities by supporting their economic and cultural exchanges and enhancing the friendship and mutual understanding between Chinese people and the peoples from the rest of the world.

In China, we see local level friendship as a part of people-to-people relations, which is guided and coordinated by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC). In 1992, in order to strengthen the efforts of expanding and deepening the relations between our local governments with those in the world, China International Friendship Cities Association (CIFCA) was established by CPAFFC.

In December 2018, CPAFFC, CIFCA together with Wuhan City government held “the 2018 China International Friendship Cities Conference”. The Conference focused on the real needs of China’s national development and regional growth, emphasizing shared opportunity and enhancing mutual cooperation, discussing all the important issues regarding city’s modernization, international outreaching environmental-friendly and eco-growth in urban areas. More than 700 representative attended from China and all over the world, sharing their experience in urban region development on common prosperity.

The Chinese central government has always supported our local governments and regions’ development of their ties globally. Mr. Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister, repeatedly emphasized that our Embassies abroad and other institution together with the MFA in Beijing itself should put more resources to help our provinces, autonomous regions, municipal cities go out to the world. In China, sponsored and supported by the MFA, we have succeeded in holding a series of promotion events for our local governments to present and feature our local regions to the international communities and help them to expand their contacts with foreign countries in their efforts of opening-up and international cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are very happy to see that top leaders of both China and Ireland pay close and important attention to the ties among cities, provinces and counties. They indeed have given far-reaching and timely guidance to our local governments in their external exchanges and cooperation. In December 2014, jointly witnessed by President Xi Jinping and President Michael D. Higgins, Mme. Li Xiaolin, President of CPAFFC signed the MOU with the then Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Mr. Charles Flanagan regarding the cooperation between the Association and DFAT, setting aims and goals on supporting closer bilateral people-to-people relations in the wide realms such as education, science and technology, innovation, academic research, agriculture and young people exchanges. Both also agreed to jointly organize events regarding the major historical memorial days and celebrations, to help enhancing our bilateral relations in general.

In fact, in all those years, ever since the establishment of the diplomatic relationship in 1979, both Chinese and Irish political and business leaders from central government, local regions, legislative institutes, think tanks and high education institutes have been working hard to enhance the local government ties. Examples are plenty and growing.

First, the local government to local governments relations have been greatly enhanced. Ever since 2005 when Shanghai and Cork City set the twinningship, 7 pairs of twinningship between our two countries have been established. They are Beijing and Dublin, Shanghai and Cork City, Hainan Province and County Wicklow, Jiangsu Province and County Cork, Gansu Province and County Sligo, Yunnan Province and County Clare, Chengdu City and County Fingal. Quite a number of MOUs also have been signed between the local governments from China and Ireland to start their work for a deeper and bigger exchanges and cooperation. I’d like to use this opportunity to express my appreciation to our friends who have dedicated themselves to the growth of those valuable ties. Mr. Pat Ledwidge is an excellent example, who has worked for decades long for Shanghai-Cork City relations. Last year, he won the Laureate of the Magnolia Gold Award from Shanghai Municipal Government with praise from the both China and Ireland. Again, I warmly congratulate him for his achievement.

Second, real dialogues and exchanges between two sides are strengthened with ever better mutual understanding and trust. Simply put, we have made between us more and better friends. Ever since I came here to be ambassador from mid-2016, more than 50 high level delegations visited each other between China and Ireland. Most of them are from China’s provinces, autonomous regions and municipal cities. They came and saw in their own eyes Ireland’s advancement in your economy, industry, and business and social improvement and up-grading. They are all passionate to expand dialogues with their Irish partners. Those Irish friends who have been visited China must have seen also significant changes and new look brought by China’s Reform and Opening-up endeavor. All those exchanges are very helpful for us to understand each other better, wider and deeper, to make friends and laid solid foundation for the growth for our ties.

Third, it is a very valuable mutual learning process as people from different culture and historical backgrounds encountered, cooperated and enjoyed successes together. I want to give you two good examples. One is Beijing-Dublin twinningship. Last year , Mr. Cai Qi, Member of Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Secretary of CPC Beijing Municipal Committee, paid a very successful visit to this country. During his meeting with the leadership of Dublin City Council, both among other things initiated the plan of personal exchanges program to let government staffs to work in each others’ governmental departments. Bejing side has sent 3 young officials to Dublin City Council government. They worked with Irish colleagues in Dublin and also shared their experience on how Beijing government works. Both sides learned a lot from this program and have got very happy and deep impression with the exchanges, and seen great value from the arrangement. Last week, the Party Secretary happily told me that they in Beijing would continue to carry out this exchanges and welcome Dublin City Council to send their people to China. Shanghai and Cork City have also similar exchanges program with much longer history including local government personal exchanges and professional exchanges between emergency medical institution. When Chinese local governmental delegations visit Ireland, quite often they would hold all kinds of roundtable events for business communities, science and technology, and educational institutions from both sides to meet and mingle. The Chinese Embassy is always ready to help enhancing those efforts from both sides. I am sure that all those endeavors have born and are going to bear more fruits for all of us in the days, months and years to come.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Since my arrival in Ireland, I have visited 22 counties and many beautiful cities and towns to meet local personalities and friends. My colleagues and I are deeply impressed not only with beautiful scenery but also by most amicable Irish people everywhere. I am very sure in the year to come our local relations will continue to play an essential and more important role for the growth of China-Ireland relations.

The year of 2019 is the 40th anniversary of Sino-Irish diplomatic relationship, and 7th anniversary of China-Ireland Strategic Partnership for Mutually Beneficial Cooperation. Our bilateral relations in general after this 40 years growth, especially the growth in recent 10 years, is strong and promising. As Taoiseach Varadkar put it in his congratulatory message in the special edition on the Irish Times featuring the CIIE last November, bilateral relations between our two countries continue and are growing ever stronger, we are very happy to see the Taoiseach, Tanaiste and the whole government from Irish side expressed positive attitude to the Belt and Road Initiative and ready to send high level delegation to the second Belt and Road Forum in 2019. It is also to our great delight that Mme. Heather Humphreys led an ever large Irish business delegation to attend the first CIIE and got in total 3 billion USD deals with China.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have wonderful opportunities for our local relations to expand our trade and business in the year to come. The good foundation has been laid and the efforts should be done to ensure our march from twinning to winning. Here I’d like to make three ideas:

First, we in China will continue to carry out Reform and Opening-up. China’s door will open wider and the reform will go deeper. We will keep on the path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in the New Era, meaning that China will continue to have a peaceful development, continue to have win-win cooperation, continue to support multilateralism, continue to be engaged with all countries for free and global trade. China is the constructor, defender, contributor to the international system and rules enshrined in the UN Charter and other global multilateral organizations participated by most of members of international society. At the same time, we’d like to discuss with all friends and partners regarding the reform of the international trade system such as WTO or the bilateral trade challenges and opportunity for a fair, justice, free and mutually beneficial trade and business cooperation. China will strive together with our Irish friends and partners for a better and more comprehensive bilateral cooperation.

Second, we will continue to share our opportunities globally. 2019 is the year of opportunity. It is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the P.R.China, and the 6th anniversary of the putting forward of the Belt and Road Initiative. The Chinese government has taken significant measures to carry out our domestic forms including further tapping domestic market and demand, enhancing the supply side structural reform which means among other things to have better quality in our both productive and consumer products, food, education, social services and security. As President Xi said, the aspirations of the people to live a better life must always be the focus of our efforts. In 2019, we are going to have the second Belt and Road Forum and the second CIIE. China, as the second largest economy in the world and 30% global growth contributor with over continuous 6% GDP growth, will create more opportunities for Ireland, Europe and the whole world. Local ties between China and Ireland should seize the moment to tap those potentials.

Thirdly, we will continue to expand and deepen local government cooperation. We are happy to see local leading personalities in Ireland have seen more clearly the importance to focus on strengthening ties with China's local governments to cultivate long-term friendship and cooperation. Both of us have accumulated the experience, efforts and achievements from our exchanges and cooperation during the past dozens of years. China is big and vast. The whole country has been transformed greatly after the 40 years reform and opening-up, and the needs and capacities to expand our local external ties are both growing. At the same time, China’s provinces and cities are giant in size and population with different economic advantages and merits in industries. All of Chinese local governments are very happy to explore the links with foreign counterparts and make good use of it as a base for friendly exchanges and cooperation in a wider realm. In the year of 2019, I do hope that the Irish local governments with the Irish friends from all walks of life will work harder to explore opportunities with your partners in China. In general, local governments in China have larger role in economic, social and cultural development. It is always advisable and beneficial for counties and cities in Ireland to energize relations with Chinese counterparts by not only your local council’s resources but also your links with central government, business communities and neighboring counties and cities in fields of trade and investment, innovative research and development, people-to-people exchanges and education institutes exchanges. Our future is very bright and promising and a better strategy, planning and coordination are called for from both sides.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This year, with grand celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Ireland, we are able to have more opportunities to promote new progress and advancement in both the bilateral ties in general and our local friendship and cooperation in particular and with all that lift China-Ireland relations to a new high.

Let us seize the moment and work together for such a a shining future, and write another glorious page to the new growth of China-Ireland relations in the new era.

Thank you.