Meeting was 'exceptionally friendly'

Tue, Mar 27, 2012, 01:00

TAOISEACH IN CHINA:TAOISEACH ENDA Kenny had what he described as an “exceptionally friendly” meeting with vice-president Xi Jinping at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in the Chinese capital.

This was the second time the two leaders had met in the last six weeks: the previous occasion was during Mr Xi’s visit to Ireland last month. “The meeting with vice-president Xi was exceptionally friendly,” Mr Kenny told reporters yesterday.

“We followed through on the discussion that we had in Dublin in regard to the areas that the vice-president mentioned that were ripe for investment in China and also the different sectors.

“We had a very thorough discussion here in respect of the general sectors where the Chinese are absolutely committed to working with Ireland in strengthening these relationships.”

He said they also discussed, “the process that has to be gone through in respect of entry of beef to China”. The People’s Republic banned EU beef imports after the BSE outbreak.

“I found the meeting very rewarding, I must say and the vice-president himself said that, from his first-hand experience of Ireland, he now wants to move on to strengthening those relationships,” the Taoiseach added.

He said the discussion with Mr Xi “was remarkable in its generosity from the Chinese perspective, and we intend to build on that, to demonstrate that Ireland can be seen to be a welcoming and trusted location for investment”.

Mr Kenny said the vice-president had “exceptionally fond memories” of his visit to Ireland, especially “his own personal favourite memory, the performance in Belvedere College of Riverdance, which he loves very much”.

Greeting Mr Kenny at the State Guest House, Mr Xi said: “It’s a great pleasure to meet you again.” He added that, “Tomorrow you will have official talks with premier Wen Jiabao. I am confident that the talks will be fruitful.”

The vice-president looked relaxed, confident and certainly not like someone unduly concerned about the infighting affecting the ruling Communist Party.

“Over the past month, I have often recalled the pleasant memories of my visit to Ireland,” he said, sitting in front of a large Chinese painting of cherry blossoms. “I was warmly received. I was deeply impressed by that visit.”

In the autumn, Mr Xi begins the lengthy process of becoming party secretary, president and head of the military commission.

The kind of access afforded to Mr Kenny yesterday suggests that there is a deepening of the relationship between Ireland and China.

The Diaoyutai guesthouse, which is a series of villas and houses built on a spot where the Emperor Zhanghong liked to fish. It is located to the west of the Forbidden City, which is mostly made up of military and government facilities. This is where US president Richard Nixon stayed when he made his historic visit to China in 1972 that began, tentatively, China’s opening-up process.

Margaret Thatcher stayed there during the negotiations about the future of Hong Kong. It was the permanent residence of Chairman Mao Zedong’s wife, Jiang Qing, blamed as the leader of the Gang of Four, for carrying out the reign of terror in the 1960s and 1970s known as the Cultural Revolution.

It’s also where the Six Party Talks aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme are staged.

On his way to the next meeting, Mr Kenny was swept along the Avenue of Eternal Peace, Chang’an Avenue, which features signs saying “Patriotism”, “Innovation” and “Virtue”.