NIB China has been working with the central government; our provincial government partners and the FCO to build on the outcomes of the Summit held in NI in 2017 and raise our status as an internationally focussed, innovative region to do business with. This was the fourth Regional Leaders Summit and it was hosted by the city of Dalian, partner to Derry & Strabane Council. Dalian is one of the major cities in Liaoning, Northern Ireland’s partner province in China. David Sterling, Head of the NI Civil Service led the 40 strong Northern Ireland delegation, which included the mayors of Derry City & Strabane, Newry, and Mourne and Down, Fermanagh and Omagh Councils. Belfast, Newtownabbey and Mid & East Antrim Councils also sent delegations to the event. Education partnerships, health and sustainable energy research and skills training were the key topics for discussion at the Summit. Professors Mark Lawlor and David Rooney from Queens University, Professors James McLaughlin, Neil Hewitt and Jackie McCoy from Ulster University, Leo Murphy, North West College and Keith Kilpatrick from Southern Regional Colleges all gave excellent presentations on their areas of expertise and the potential for future cooperation with China. Highlighting NI’s focus on innovation and ‘best in UK’ expertise in areas China is interested in working on in the future will also lead to economically beneficial outcomes for our businesses and education organisations.
North West College and Southern Regional College also signed Agreements with colleges in Dalian and Changchun to cooperate on teacher and student exchanges, course and programme development. Queens University signed a partnership agreement with Dalian University of Foreign Languages and Ulster University signed an agreement with Jilin University for Foreign Affairs in Changchun.
Northern Ireland’s partnership with Liaoning was cited by the government in China as an example of how regional cooperation should be done. This exemplar role was recognized, when Northern Ireland was designated the senior regional delegation for the summit and David Sterling led the UK delegation of Northern Powerhouse, Midland’s Engine and the City of Glasgow in discussions on economic policy, innovation and trade with the Vice Governor of Liaoning. Derry City & Strabane Council, led by Mayor John Boyle and Chief Executive John Kelpie, held discussions with the Mayor of Dalian following a recent Dalian education delegation to the city in September.
Invest NI’s Steve Harper presented on NI’s competitive economic proposition and provided support to a number of NI international firms, along with NIB, to explore business opportunities in Dalian. NIB China has been discussing economic benefits with the Chinese regional governments and it is hoped that more NI businesses will visit China in the near future as part of our promotion of Innovative NI and take advantage of the pro-NI partnerships that the NI Executive and our councils have developed in China.
North West College signing agreement with Dalian College
The success of our participation in the summit will depend on the implementation of a number of the outcomes as we move from agreement and negotiation on formal cooperation to actual implementation of programmes and specific theme and sector visits. The Northern Ireland Bureau in China will coordinate activities across NI organisations and work with our government partners in China to ensure implementation of the outcomes and review and report on progress to government and other stakeholders.
FERMANAGH, Omagh and Huangshi City in Hubei province, Northern Ireland is other partner province in China initially established contact in 2017 through NIB China and information exchanged through on going communications supported by the NIB office. We met with the Huangshi city government and local businesses as well as education and environmental organizations on a number of visits to discuss partnerships. Issues identified for potential collaboration included skills training, trade, tourism and environmental work. The relationship was also encouraged by the Hubei provincial government who visited Northern Ireland in December 2017 and signed an agreement with the NI government. The Chairperson of Fermanagh and Omagh Council, Howard Thornton, led a delegation to the 4th Regional leaders Summit before travelling to Huangshi, at the invitation of the mayor, for further talks on cooperation. The talks again were very successful and a formal agreement was signed to cooperate on trade education and cultural programs. Further work will be developed over the coming months, which will also hopefully include a delegation from Huangshi visiting the council area in 2019.
NIB China initially helped negotiate the Sister Cities agreement between Belfast and Shenyang and has supported this relationship over the years. In May of this year, Mayor Deirdre Hargey was the third Belfast mayor to visit Shenyang and it is a clear statement of commitment from the city to the relationship with Shenyang. Mayor Hargey was invited to speak at a major city connections conference hosted by Shenyang and included delegates from over 80 cities in Asia, Europe and South America. The council also wanted to focus this visit on building on the idea of a tourism partnership with Shenyang and Liaoning, promoting Belfast as a holiday destination and as a gateway to visiting other parts on the island of Ireland. Visit Belfast hosted a tourism reception attended by over 100 tourism operators, travel writers and the government tourism organizations in the city. Tourism Ireland and NIB China also supported the council at the event promoting our various links
with Liaoning and China and the flight connections including the new Hainan Airlines direct route between Dublin and Beijing as well the British Airways connections between Belfast, London and Beijing.
The Vice Mayor of Shenyang spoke at the event along with the Regional Director of Hainan Airlines who provided two return tickets, Beijing to Dublin as a ballot prize on the evening.
Since the Belfast event, Shenyang City government has sent two sector delegations to Belfast in the last month, one looking at education and another including international businesses exploring trade and investment opportunities.
During the Summit in Northern Ireland last December the Northern Ireland Bureau introduced Liam Hannaway, Chief Executive of Newry, Mourne and Down to a delegation from the city of Changchun in Jilin province. Changchun is a city with a long and interesting history and a keen interest in economic connections as well as culture and sports.
Since that meeting NIB China and both councils have been involved in a lot of work identifying areas for potential cooperation and as a result of this preparatory work it was agreed sufficient progress been that the Chairperson of Newry, Mourne & Down, Mark Murnin would lead a delegation to Changchun to finalize talks.
The President of Newry Chamber of Commerce, Paul Convery, was also invited to meet with international businesses in Changchun interested in trading relationships with NI and Keith Kilpatrick from Southern Regional College met with counterparts from Changchun College. As a result of the negotiations, agreements were signed with Changchun City government, Changchun College, Jilin University and Changchun Chamber of Commerce. The Jilin provincial government also agreed to send an economic delegation to Newry, Mourne and Down at the end of November to look at innovation and skills policy exchange as well as future business and education links and trade delegations in 2019.
During their visit, the NMD council delegation were brought out to the Changchun Sculpture Park featuring over 400 pieces of work from artists in China and around the world. One of the pieces was from Northern Ireland by local artists Eleanor Whealer and Alan John Cargo and featured St Patrick’s staff, which is also part of the Newry, Mourne and Down council’s logo.
NIB China has taken every opportunity to meet with and lobby decision makers from government, inspection agencies and universities to promote our agriculture industry and our food and drink companies. Attending and speaking at agriculture events that are important to the Ministry of Agriculture and its organizations ensures China sees our commitment to the production of safe, quality food and to the technology and expertise required to develop successful agricultural industries.
Tim Losty, Director of NIB China regularly speaks at Chinese agricultural events and this year was invited to attend a conference on Modern Agriculture and Rural Revitalization.
Also speaking at the event were representatives from the Japanese, Malaysian, Mexican, Israeli, Zimbabwe, Vietnamese and Dutch embassies. NI’s experience of developing technology and training courses to improve the industry was shared with delegates as well as promoting the Centre for Global Food Security, CAFRE and AFBI where NI leads the way in research and education. At this event, we also highlighted our dairy, chicken, beef sectors and produce as well as comparing Irish whiskey to Chinese Baijiu (white spirit) during a tour of the Yanghe distillery.
Our relationship with the province of Jilin is going from strength to strength following a number of visits to Changchun, the capital city. During the visit from Newry, Mourne and Down council, we met with the Jilin provincial government and agreed on a visit to NI in early November to meet with government departments, Invest NI, universities and Newry Mourne and Down Council. NI’s relationship with Jilin is also supported by the Confucius Institute and at the end of November Tim Losty and Liu Yan from the Institute met with students and staff at Jilin Medical University prior to their visit to Northern Ireland. Ulster University will host the 39 students and staff in December this year for a short intense study program and familiarization visit.
The students will have the opportunity to learn more about UU’s courses and areas of international research as well as NI’s health policy priorities and site visits to hospitals. As the relationship develops, some of the students may decide to undertake postgraduate studies at UU and staff will look at possible areas of research with medical researchers in NI.
QUB Vice Chancellor, Professor Ian Greer visited China for a series of engagements and NIB secured a number of meetings with key decision makers in Liaoning province to discuss collaboration in innovation policy and implementation.
Vice Chancellor Ian Greer Professor Jiang Yao Dean of China Queens College
Queens University also launched a new research program at their joint campus with Shenyang Medical University, the China Queens College. This will raise QUB’s ‘Innovative University’ profile in China as well as encouraging more Chinese students to study for QUB degrees and consider coming to NI to study for Masters and PhD courses.
NIB China arranged a visit for senior government officials from Liaoning’s Ministry of Science and Innovation to visit NI in November to meet with the Department for the Economy, Invest NI, Catalyst Science Park and our universities to share experience of developing innovation and knowledge led economies. We met with the government leaders following their visit to discuss their findings, areas of interest and next steps. This will lead to further collaboration during 2019 where NIB and partners will help identify joint research programs and technology trade links.
It is sad news that Consul General Wang Shuying is leaving Northern Ireland after four years in the position. Madam Wang established the consulate, set up its operations and promoted links between China and Northern Ireland. Madam Wang has made many friends in NI and has been a great help and resource to the government, public sector businesses and education organisations. Even before taking up her role Madam Wang was a great help to me and to the NIB China office in Beijing. Over the last four years, we have seen the NI relationship with China grow significantly with access to government decision makers, high-level visits to NI, increase in business activity and tourists coming to see us. Madam Wang played a key role in this relationship and a lot of our success is down to her work. Whilst we are sorry to see her leave we wish Shuying the very best for the future.
‘What’s next?’ – This was the question everybody was asking me at graduation. I think my answer came as a big as a surprise when I mentioned … ‘I’m going to intern in China!’
The Generation UK programme offers graduates the opportunity to experience what it is like to live and work in China, a country that is constantly developing and boasts the second largest economy in the world.
I was keen to gain experience in China due to my legal background and keen interest in international affairs. During my time at Queens, I took advantage of various international opportunities available, and having graduated with a Masters’ in Public International Law I had become fascinated by China and the opportunities there.
During my time here, I have worked at a local law firm where I have focused on International Trade and Foreign Investment. I have had the opportunity to work closely with a senior partner where I have assisted with proof reading, research and preparing reports for use at conferences. I have learnt a lot, and it has been a fantastic start to my working career!
Thanks to Tim Losty, I have also had the opportunity to spend some time at the Northern Ireland Bureau where I have been able to gain an understanding of how NI represents their interests within an international sphere. I have no doubt that the insights I have gained will be invaluable during the course of my working career, and I will continue to follow the work of the NI Bureau.
Xie xie Beijing! (Thank you Beijing!)
We now welcome Jia Na to the Northern Ireland Bureau as Operations Manager. Jia Na is a native of Beijing and has an undergraduate Degree in Finance and a Masters in Business Administration. Prior to joining the Bureau Jia Na worked in the UK embassy as Human Resources Manager for over four year and before that, she worked in the US embassy in Beijing so she has a lot of experience with international organisations. Jia Na can be contacted on Jia.firstname.lastname@example.org.