Premier Li Qiang holds talks with Irish President and Taoiseach

In his first overseas visit of 2024, China’s Premier Li Qiang attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss resort of Davos and paid official visits to Switzerland and Ireland.

The visit to Ireland coincides with the 45th anniversary of the two countries’ establishment of diplomatic relations, but more generally, as the only other European destination chosen by Premier Li around his attendance at Davos, it represents a significant statement by China regarding its friendly sentiments towards Ireland and its keen desire to promote that relationship.

This was further underlined by two unilateral gestures announced during the visit. With immediate effect, China has reopened its market to Irish beef. China suspended imports last year after a routine check detected an atypical BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, commonly known as ‘mad cow disease’) case in a cow. China is Ireland’s fourth largest trade partner, and this move was greatly welcomed by the country’s farming community. 

In addition, China added Ireland to its list of countries whose citizens will enjoy visa-free entry.

Following his arrival on January 16, Premier Li held meetings with Irish President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar on the 17th.

Premier Li told President Higgins that, although China and Ireland are geographically far apart with different national conditions, they have enjoyed enduring friendship. 

In recent years, he added, under the strategic guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Michael D. Higgins, China-Ireland relations have developed steadily, and bilateral practical cooperation has yielded fruitful results. 

The Irish Times further reported that Li praised Higgins as “a seasoned political leader in Ireland [who has] all along attached importance to Ireland-China relations and followed China’s development.”

China, Li said, stands ready to work with Ireland to adhere to mutual respect and equality, and take the opportunity of the 45th anniversary of China-Ireland diplomatic ties this year to further implement the important consensuses reached by the heads of state of the two countries, continuously enhance mutual understanding and trust, fully accommodate each other’s major interests and core concerns, continuously advance the level and boost the effects of cooperation in various fields, and push for greater development of the China-Ireland strategic partnership for mutually beneficial cooperation.

He added that both sides should practice genuine multilateralism, bridge differences through dialogue and resolve disputes through cooperation, so as to push for better global governance, promote common development and inject greater stability and energy into a world rocked by changes and chaos.

President Higgins recalled his state visit to China in December 2014 and his discussions with President Xi Jinping both during that visit and when President Xi visited Ireland as China’s Vice-President in 2012.

The two statesmen agreed on the need for science and technology to be shared where they have the greatest effect, without borders, and that the test for this should be where it can have the greatest benefit for humanity.

In their discussions, the President also recalled conversations which he had with President Xi in 2014 with regard to the interacting crises of climate change, global poverty, food security, global conflict, and the need to recast development to take account of debt.

In his meeting with Leo Varadkar, Li said that China and Ireland have maintained healthy and stable development of their ties since their establishment of diplomatic relations. China is ready to work with Ireland to carry forward traditional friendship, consolidate political mutual trust, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and share development opportunities more fully, in a bid to bring more benefits to the two countries and the two peoples.

The Chinese Premier expressed his country’s willingness to work with the Irish side to adhere to mutual respect and trust, strive to seek common ground while shelving and resolving differences, deepen mutual understanding, and support each other on major issues.

China and Ireland should continuously expand trade, strengthen cooperation in green and low-carbon development, sustainable agriculture, finance, and other fields, and expand innovation cooperation in digital economy, biomedicine, and artificial intelligence, he added.

Varadkar said that Ireland appreciates China’s great achievements in economic and social development, always abides by the one-China policy, and hopes that China will achieve peaceful reunification at an early date.

Ireland, he added, stands ready to expand two-way investment with China, strengthen bilateral cooperation in such fields as agriculture, food, innovation, and green development, and deepen people-to-people exchanges in education and culture.

The following articles were originally published by the Xinhua News Agency and the website of the President of Ireland.

China, Ireland should jointly practice genuine multilateralism: Chinese premier

DUBLIN, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) — Visiting Chinese Premier Li Qiang on Wednesday called on China and Ireland to work together to uphold a free and open international trading system and practice genuine multilateralism.

Li made the call while meeting with Irish President Michael D. Higgins here in Aras an Uachtarain, the official residence of the Irish president.

Though China and Ireland are geographically apart with different national conditions, they have enjoyed enduring friendship as well as highly compatible development concepts, Li noted.

In recent years, under the strategic guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Michael D. Higgins, China-Ireland relations have developed steadily and bilateral practical cooperation has yielded fruitful results, he said.

China stands ready to work with Ireland to adhere to mutual respect and equality, and take the opportunity of the 45th anniversary of China-Ireland diplomatic ties this year to further implement the important consensuses reached by the heads of state of the two countries, continuously enhance mutual understanding and trust, fully accommodate each other’s major interests and core concerns, continuously advance the level and boost the effects of cooperation in various fields, and push for greater development of the China-Ireland strategic partnership for mutually beneficial cooperation, Li said.


The Chinese premier also pointed out that mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Ireland is promising.

Li said China is willing to deepen cooperation with Ireland in such fields as economy, trade and investment, green development as well as scientific and technological innovation.

He also pledged strengthening people-to-people exchanges in education, culture and other fields to facilitate personnel exchanges between the two countries.

Both sides should work together to uphold a free and open international trading system and maintain the stable and smooth flow of global industrial and supply chains, Li noted.

He said that both sides should practice genuine multilateralism, bridge differences through dialogue and resolve disputes through cooperation, so as to push for better global governance, promote common development and inject greater stability and energy into a world rocked by changes and chaos.

For his part, Higgins said that relations between Ireland and China have maintained a sound momentum of development and both sides have always adhered to mutual understanding and respect.

Ireland stands ready to strengthen friendly communications with China to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, jointly meet climate change, food security, sustainable development and other global challenges, and deepen the friendship between the two peoples so as to promote the continuous and in-depth development of bilateral ties, he said. 


President meets Premier Li Qiang of the People’s Republic of China

Jan. 17 (President of Ireland) — Uachtarán na hÉireann, President Michael D. Higgins received H.E. Mr Li Qiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, on a courtesy call at Áras an Uachtaráin. Premier Li relayed warm greetings to the President from President Xi Jinping, which were reciprocated by the President.

At their meeting, President Higgins recalled his State Visit to China in December 2014 and his discussions with President Xi Jinping both during that State Visit and when President Xi visited Ireland as China’s Vice-President in 2012.

In their discussions, the President resumed conversations which he had with President Xi in 2014 with regard to the interacting crises of climate change, global poverty, food security, global conflict, and recasting development to take account of debt.

President Higgins further took up some of the points on the five macro-economic principles which Premier Li advanced in his recent special address in Davos. There was agreement between the President and the Premier on the need for science and technology to be shared where they have the greatest effect without borders and there was common agreement that the test for this should be where it can have the greatest benefit for humanity.

The President referred to the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Ireland and China, and in that context noted the value of enabling straightforward dialogue on issues between countries with friendly relations to the benefit of all in a fundamental and long-term sense.

In this regard, the President referenced the forthcoming meetings of the Universal Periodic Review taking place in Geneva, the points that are likely to arise during that process, and gave the background to the Irish position on those matters.


Chinese premier says China, Ireland should regard each other as key cooperative partners

DUBLIN, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) — China and Ireland should adhere to mutual benefit, and always regard each other as key cooperative partners and development opportunities, Chinese Premier Li Qiang said here Wednesday.

Li made the remarks when meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar at Farmleigh House, the official Irish state guest house, in the Irish capital of Dublin.

During their talks, Li said China and Ireland have maintained healthy and stable development of their ties since the establishment of their diplomatic relations 45 years ago.

In recent years, particularly, under the strategic guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Michael D. Higgins, the China-Ireland strategic partnership for mutually beneficial cooperation has increasingly deepened, and exchanges and cooperation in various fields have continuously expanded, bringing tangible benefits to the two peoples, Li said.

China is ready to work with Ireland to carry forward traditional friendship, consolidate political mutual trust, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and share development opportunities more fully, in a bid to bring more benefits to the two countries and the two peoples, Li noted.

Li expressed China’s willingness to work with the Irish side to adhere to mutual respect and trust, strive to seek common ground while shelving and resolving differences, deepen mutual understanding, and support each other on major issues.

China and Ireland should continuously expand trade, strengthen cooperation in green and low-carbon development, sustainable agriculture, finance and other fields, and expand innovation cooperation in digital economy, biomedicine and artificial intelligence, making the pie of cooperation bigger, he said.

China will apply unilateral visa-free policy to Ireland to facilitate personnel exchanges between the two countries, Li said, voicing the expectation that Ireland will provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises.

China is willing to strengthen coordination and cooperation with Ireland within the United Nations and other multilateral frameworks, practice genuine multilateralism, jointly tackle global challenges and promote the building of a community with a shared future for mankind, he said.

It is hoped that Ireland will play a greater role in promoting the sound and stable development of China-Europe relations, said Li.

For his part, Varadkar said that China is an important cooperative partner of Ireland, and the two countries have always adhered to mutual respect and trust.

Ireland appreciates China’s great achievements in economic and social development, always abides by the one-China principle, and hopes that China will achieve peaceful reunification at an early date, he added.

Ireland stands ready to expand two-way investment with China, strengthen bilateral cooperation in such fields as agriculture, food, innovation, and green development, and deepen people-to-people exchanges in education and culture, Varadkar continued.

The Irish side is willing to actively consider providing more convenience for Chinese citizens to visit Ireland, and welcomes more Chinese enterprises to invest and do business in Ireland, he noted, adding that Ireland supports further deepening Europe-China cooperation.

Prior to the talks, Li attended a grand welcome ceremony held by Varadkar and reviewed the Irish Guard of Honor. 

Friendly Ireland-China relations reinforced with visit by Tánaiste Micheál Martin

Friendly relations between Ireland and China have been reinforced with a visit by Micheál Martin, Ireland’s Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Minister for Defence. Martin is also the leader of the Fianna Fáil party, one of the three parties in Ireland’s coalition government.

Martin met with Chinese Vice President Han Zheng on November 6, who said that, under the strategic guidance and promotion of the leaders of the two countries, China and Ireland have become a good example of friendly coexistence and win-win cooperation between countries with different histories, cultures, and political systems. Han added that to develop China-Ireland relations, the foundation is solid and the conditions are sound.

Next year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Ireland. The two sides should consolidate political mutual trust, tap the potential of practical cooperation, strengthen public support for friendship, and work together to push for new achievements in China-Ireland mutually beneficial strategic partnerships.

For his part, Martin said that Ireland and China enjoy profound friendship, and cooperation in various fields has expanded in recent years. Ireland is willing to take next year’s 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Ireland and China as an opportunity to strengthen exchanges with China in various fields.

The following day, at the request of the Irish side, Martin, who also met with Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his stay, met with Liu Jianchao, Minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) International Department (IDCPC). 

Martin said, Ireland-China friendship has a long history. The Irish side attaches importance to developing relations with China, regards China as an important partner, and hopes to strengthen exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in economy, trade, people-to-people exchanges, agriculture and other fields. As an EU member state, the Irish side is committed to developing robust EU-China relations, adheres to free and open economic policies, opposes “decoupling” from China, and hopes to promote closer cooperation between the EU and China in areas such as climate change and sustainable development. 

Liu said that the CPC attaches importance to maintaining various forms of exchanges with major political parties such as the Fianna Fáil and is willing to enhance understanding and mutual trust and promote the further development of China-Ireland strategic partnership for mutually beneficial cooperation. 

In a fascinating article by its China correspondent Denis Staunton, published on November 8, the Irish Times, Ireland’s most prestigious daily newspaper, reported on the Tánaiste’s visit to the Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU), home to an Irish Studies Centre, which is China’s comprehensive, multi-disciplinary institute in this field.

Reflecting China’s great interest in Ireland and Irish studies, and the country’s great respect for small nations and the great diversity of human civilisations, BFSU, which is one of China’s most prestigious universities, teaches 101 languages and has educated generations of the country’s diplomats, including three former ambassadors to Ireland. The Irish Studies Centre’s programmes cover Irish language, literature, culture, history, politics, and international relations and one of its senior figures, Wang Zhanpeng, is an expert on Brexit.

Staunton reported Zhang Junhan, one of the centres’s lecturers in the Irish language as saying: “Some of the students [who had turned out to greet Martin] are postgraduates from the Irish Studies Centre and the Gaeilge [the Irish language] is one of the modules they must take because we think it’s a source for them to understand Irish culture and society more deeply. There’s another bunch of graduate students from all over the university, from the law school, the business school, other language faculties. They study Irish as an optional module only because they are interested in this language and this country.”

Staunton’s report added: “Last December, Wang [Zhanpeng] and the centre’s director Chen Li went to Dublin to receive the Presidential Distinguished Service Award. Chen has done more to promote Irish writing in China than any other individual, introducing writers such as Anne Enright and Colin Barrett who are now translated into Chinese, alongside many others including John Banville, Colm Tóibín and Sally Rooney.”

He also noted that Martin had been greeted with the performance on the whistle, flute and bodhrán of a number of famous Irish songs and musical pieces. They included The Foggy Dew, one of Ireland’s most famous rebel songs. It can be seen here performed by The Wolfe Tones, the legendary Irish rebel group who this year celebrate their 60th anniversary.

The following reports were originally published by the Xinhua News Agency and on the IDCPC website.

Chinese VP meets Irish deputy PM

BEIJING, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) — Chinese Vice President Han Zheng met with Micheal Martin, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland, in Beijing on Monday.

Under the strategic guidance and promotion of the leaders of the two countries, China and Ireland have become a good example of friendly coexistence and win-win cooperation between countries with different histories, cultures, and political systems, Han said, adding that to develop China-Ireland relations, the foundation is solid and conditions sound.

Next year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Ireland. The two sides should consolidate political mutual trust, tap the potential of practical cooperation, strengthen public support for friendship, and work together to push for new achievements in China-Ireland mutually beneficial strategic partnerships, said Han.

Continue reading Friendly Ireland-China relations reinforced with visit by Tánaiste Micheál Martin

Clare Daly: ‘derisking’ from China would be suicidal for European industry

In this episode of the CGTN program Dialogue, Xu Qinduo interviews Clare Daly, the outspoken, anti-imperialist member of the European Parliament (MEP) from Ireland on the EU’s attitude towards the conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, as well as on China.

Clare notes that the recent resolution on Gaza adopted by the European parliament, which she and her colleague Mick Wallace voted against, did not address the root causes of the conflict or the crimes, including ethnic cleansing and genocide, perpetrated by the Israeli apartheid state. The EU and the United States, she notes, are complicit in Israeli genocide and that makes them equally culpable in international law.

On Ukraine, she is not presently hopeful of prospects for peace. Rather she fears that working class Ukrainian men will continue to be killed in the interests of western arms companies who seek to perpetuate the conflict. 

Asked about the moves to expand NATO to Asia, possibly starting with the establishment of an office in Tokyo, Clare responds that she has said before that the last bite of a dying snake is the most dangerous. US hegemony is in decline and there is no going back on this. But in its lashing out in desperation it is very dangerous. In this regard, she cites President Biden’s recent demand for US$100 bn for not only Israel and Ukraine but Taiwan as well. She feels that the US managed to provoke Russia and now seeks to do the same to China over Taiwan. However, she believes that Chinese diplomacy is more measured and the country will not walk into a similar trap.

Asked what impressed her most on her recent visit to China, she says there is not enough time to recount all the amazing things she saw. China, she notes, has built whole cities, but in Dublin it has not been possible to build even one metro station in 30 years. Ireland does not have a single high-speed train and neither does the US. Unfortunately, the EU has been following the US in seeking to restrict relations with China under the guise of ‘derisking’ and similar terms. Such a policy, she notes, if followed through, would be suicidal for European industry. In the face of these provocations, Clare advises China to continue with its diplomatic overtures and says she can think of nothing that China should be doing differently.

Within this situation, Clare asserts that Ireland has a special role to play. The EU is largely made up of former colonising powers or former socialist countries. Ireland, however, was colonised. It knows what it is like to be oppressed. Therefore, Ireland can be a voice for neutrality, non-alignment, multilateral cooperation and international solidarity.

The full interview with Clare Daly MEP is embedded below.

Ireland’s neutrality is at stake

In this article, originally published by Socialist Voice, Jimmy Corcoran, who is the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI), takes up the new and increasing danger to what remains of Irish neutrality.

Neutrality is enshrined in the Irish constitution, but has been considerably undermined over recent years. That process has been further expedited with both the conflict in Ukraine and the new cold war against China, despite the principled position in defence of neutrality put forward by Irish President Michael D Higgins.

So far, Higgins’ public stance has prevented a formal application for NATO membership, but Micheál Martin, leader of the Fianna Fáil party and Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Minister for Defence in the Irish government, is now seeking to weaken the constraints on the deployment of Irish troops overseas as a thin end of the wedge. Hitherto, Irish troops have essentially been confined to United Nations peacekeeping duties overseas.

Corcoran notes that: “In the event of Sinn Féin becoming the major party in the next 26-County government [as is currently highly likely] they will be faced with this pro-imperialist bias [on the part of the Irish ruling class].”

The possibility of a revision or modification in Sinn Féin’s historically strong position on neutrality is currently a matter of public debate both within and outside the party. The CPI General Secretary poses the questions: “How will they react? Will they remain true to their anti-colonial and anti-imperialist tradition, or will they don the Atlanticist clothing of official Ireland?”

His article continues:

“They need to look beyond the world of US, EU and British imperialism towards the developing world. The Chinese share of the world economy is growing, while that of the United States is in relative decline. China is the main trading partner of more than 150 countries. Unlike Ireland, when China embarked on its path of modernising its economy the state remained in control, and it lifted 800 million people out of absolute poverty.”

Making an important call to Sinn Féin, Corcoran concludes:

“One doesn’t have to accept China’s self-designation as a socialist society to recognise that its development strategy has produced far better results than that pursued by the Irish ruling class since the late 1950s. If a Sinn Féin-led government is to develop Irish political and economic sovereignty and tilt the balance of forces towards the working class, it will need to counter the arguments of the Atlanticists. It could start by sending a high-level delegation to the People’s Republic of China to look at its path to modernisation and see what can be adapted to Irish conditions.”

The threat to completely abandon what remains of Irish neutrality is a continuing and increasing one. The recent intervention of President Higgins may have slowed down Micheál Martin’s march to NATO, but the threat remains.

Rather than applying for NATO membership immediately, the ruling class have set their sights as an interim step on removing the “triple lock” on the deployment of Irish troops. The capitalist parties and media claim that the triple lock is no longer tenable, because both Russia and China have a veto in the Security Council, which they can use to stop military aggression by the United States and its satellites. This ignores the fact that three NATO members—the United States, Britain, and France—also have a veto, which they use to protect imperialist aggression. The United States uses its veto against any condemnation of apartheid Israel’s continued colonisation in Palestine.

The report of the Commission on the Defence Forces demonstrates the continuing EU threat to Irish neutrality and sovereignty. It cites the EU Commission’s position that the rise of China must be seen as a threat to EU security.¹ This is reinforced regularly in the “news” media, to the extent that one would imagine that the Chinese military lie just over the horizon. The real political situation in Ireland consists of British (NATO) forces in the Six Counties and a US (NATO) base in Shannon Airport.

The Atlanticist ideology is deeply ingrained in the political class, the media, the higher echelons of the civil service, and the officer corps of the Defence Forces. Irish politicians and “journalists” ape the NATO line that China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua and Venezuela are a threat to the “rules-based order” upon which “our” economic, political and military security is based.

But exactly what are these rules, who drafted them, and who approved them? Despite what many people may believe, the aforementioned rules are not the UN Charter or the various international agreements drafted under the aegis of the United Nations, or regional bodies such as the Council of Europe (not to be confused with the EU’s European Council) and then agreed by individual member-states: the “rules-based order” amounts to no more than the United States assuming the right to determine the economic and political path of all countries.

Any country that seeks to break with imperialism is automatically held to be in breach of the rules; and the United States reserves the right to punish them by economic or military intervention, or both.

In the event of Sinn Féin becoming the major party in the next 26-County government they will be faced with this pro-imperialist bias. How will they react? Will they remain true to their anti-colonial and anti-imperialist tradition, or will they don the Atlanticist clothing of official Ireland? The realpolitik gurus within the party will no doubt urge them to accept the Atlanticist position (they already have a welcome in the White House), as they will need the tax from American corporations to implement their social policies.

However, they need to look beyond the world of US, EU and British imperialism towards the developing world. The Chinese share of the world economy is growing, while that of the United States is in relative decline. China is the main trading partner of more than 150 countries. Unlike Ireland, when China embarked on its path of modernising its economy the state remained in control, and it lifted 800 million people out of absolute poverty.² It has an internal economy of 1.4 billion people, and government policies are concentrated on increasing the purchasing power of the poorest sections over the next decade. China spends far less on its military than the United States does; and China has not been at war for more than forty years.

One doesn’t have to accept China’s self-designation as a socialist society to recognise that its development strategy has produced far better results than that pursued by the Irish ruling class since the late 1950s. If a Sinn Féin-led government is to develop Irish political and economic sovereignty and tilt the balance of forces towards the working class, it will need to counter the arguments of the Atlanticists. It could start by sending a high-level delegation to the People’s Republic of China to look at its path to modernisation and see what can be adapted to Irish conditions. They would also see that China has no material benefit to gain from war, but that on the contrary a war could set its development back decades.

  1. Report of the Commission on the Defence Forces (2022), p. 6.
  2. World Bank press statement, 1 April 2022.