Mid West’s influence on Chinese economy the focus of conference in Limerick

Martin Murray, Asia Matters executive director. Photo: Peter Pietrzak

THE MID West had a large role to play in inspiring China’s economic growth, according to a seminar that will take place in Limerick later this month.

A fact-finding mission to Shannon in the 1980s by Xi Zhongxun, father of Chinese president Xi Jinping, inspired the Chinese premier’s father so much that he decided to implement similar strategies back home.

Xi Zhongxun, a former revolutionary, was widely regarded as one of the founders of modern China.

Of particular interest to the father of the current head of state was the Shannon Free Zone, where goods can be imported, stored, and re-exported without being subject to customs duty and are used to promote growth.

China now has 21 free-trade areas, with the Chinese economy now worth an estimated US$17.9 trillion (€16.4 trillion).

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Ireland’s only Asian think-tank, Asia Matters, is to host a conference in Limerick to discuss the Mid West’s influence on China, as well as helping local businesses to target customers in the region.

Guest speakers at the event will include former Ireland international rugby player Jamie Heaslip, who is now Ireland Strategic Growth Lead for online payments firm Stripe.

Asia Matters Executive Director Martin Murray said at least two of China’s free trade zones are based on the Shannon Free Zone, which was the first of its kind anywhere in the world when it opened in 1959.

“Shannon has become the model worldwide, including in China, for a free trade zone,” said Mr Murray.

“When President Xi Jinping visited Ireland when he was vice-president in 2012, he visited Shannon just like his father before him.

“And it was following Xi Zhongxun’s visit that China decided to use Shannon as a model for the Zhejiang and Shanghai free zones.”

Mr Murray said that Ireland’s economic journey is “an example to the rest of the world”.

The Asia Matters conference will take place in locations around Limerick on February 26 and 27, including in the University of Limerick, the ENGINE hub on Cecil Street, and the offices of Northern Trust in City East Plaza.

“Asia is the world’s most populous continent and 60 per cent of all global output in 2024 is expected to come from Asian economies,” Mr Murray said.

“Now that China’s ban on Irish beef has recently been lifted, there are even more opportunities for our agricultural sector in the world’s second largest marketplace.”