Do the Chinese believe we’re worth a punt?

‘IRELAND – yes, poor, bailed-out, austerity afflicted Eire, was the place Xi Jingping, putative third (or fourth?) most powerful man in the world, chose as a next act. Not Brussels, Berlin, London or Paris.’

That was the take of the Slate magazine- the influential political website – on the Chinese visit to Dublin.

Brace yourself, it gets better.

“In all the talk of China riding to Europe’s rescue recently, Beijing has done very little of substance. It may be that Xi’s visit to the Emerald Island is a sign that China has chosen it port of entry.”

Of all the ports of entry for our economic rescue a small farm in Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, may have seemed the most unlikely.

Yet that’s where the Chinese leader-in-waiting visited yesterday, opting for a chinwag with a local family instead of, for example, a highpowered business breakfast in the The City of London.

The fact that Mr Xi spent the days before his visit involved in some serious power politics in Washington makes his decision to visit here directly afterwards even more telling.

Either our embassy in Beijing’s been working overtime or the Party Elders there really believe we’re worth a punt.

There’s little doubt in international press coverage which scenario’s more likely.

Reuters drew comparisons between a “high tech zone near Shannon Airport” and a similar project in Shenzen, which the Chinese used to drive as a poster development for their economic reforms.

Bloomberg reminded us that: “Ireland’s merchandise exports to China were valued at 2.25 billion euros in the first 11 months of last year”.

So in terms of international PR Mr Xi’s visit is heaven sent.

As are headlines like “When Chinese eyes are smiling”.

All this serves to distance us from our fellow PIIGS, ensuring that an economic recovery will come sooner rather than later.

Or, as Slate magazine put it: “Ireland looks like a fairly good buy right now if you’re an emerging power with cash laying around the old sovereign wealth fund.”

And China’s coffers, it points out, hold about $400bn.

This post first appeared in the Evening Herald, February 20, 2012.

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