Why did the next Chinese leader spend three days in Ireland?

The news of a thousand new jobs in Dundalk from Paypal might just have enough people thinking that Ireland is on its way back. The general excitement is not dissimilar to the time when the Bank of Scotland blew into town taking advantage of light touch regulation, and throwing easy credit all over the place.

But what I can’t quite figure about the putative leader of the Chinese People’s Republic is, why Ireland? And why now?

It is line with a policy of engagement first pushed by the Ahern government some five or six years ago. But there is disquiet in some areas not simply with China’s abysmal human rights record (nicely illustrated here by Martyn Turner), but with China’s approach to overseas partners.

As Peter Williamson and Ming Zeng
have noted (available at the Slugger bookshop) the way China does business is often about taking what the west does imperfectly, using the deep pockets of its sovereign funds and investing deeply in research and development and then selling it back into the west.

That does not necessarily mean that spending quality time with the Chinese leader to be is a bad sign. Their markets are massive and growing. But their capacity (and propensity) to invest in the long term far outruns Ireland’s anglo model economy which tends to privilege the quarterly return of the market than the five ten or fifteen year R&D cycle in the UK and the US.

And according to Economywatch, the country’s export markets are mostly in those countries rather than other parts of the European Union:

Which brings me back to the question in the title. It cannot do the country much harm in the short term to have such attention lavished on it (along with the reciprocal invitation to come back to Beijing) by the putative leader of the Chinese people. But its corollary is unlikely to unwind in the way that many have become accustomed too.


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