Tsinghua Ambassador Talks

May 25, 2016

On May 25, the Ambassador of Romania to China Mr. Paul Kavanagh delivered a lecture entitled “Ireland-China Relations in the 21st Century” on Tsinghua campus. His lecture was part of the Tsinghua Ambassador Talks, a student-led forum that provides an opportunity for Tsinghua IR students to directly engage with the highest-level foreign government representatives in Beijing on political, economic, and social issues.

Ambassador Kavanagh began his lecture with the history of Ireland from the 18th century and its relations with the then British Empire. He touched on the decades of inter-religious conflict and segregation between the Catholics and the Protestants that plagued Ireland for decades. The famine in the end of the century marked the watershed moment of Ireland history. The island lost almost a fourth of its population in the famine, a several thousands emigrated to other parts of the world such as the United States and Australia.

The souring relations between Ireland and the Empire have led to marginalization of the country during the British industrialization period. Ireland has been largely kept as a “big farm” to cater the food supplies of industrial cities on the mainland. Thus, this led to the lack of heavy industry on the island today.

Mr. Kavanagh claimed that Ireland is a EU success story, in which the country has benefited greatly from the single market scheme of Europe. Formerly known as “the island behind the island”, the Ambassador reminded the audience that Ireland now plays a leading role in becoming the entrance to Europe for a myriad of foreign businesses. An annual corporate tax of 12.5% has long been a distinctive feature of the Irish economic policy and to date remains to be Ireland’s biggest magnet to attract foreign companies and investment.

Aware of its high economic growth and abundance of people of young age, Ireland invested heavily in education and research. Today Ireland is widely praised as a leader in agricultural science and technology.

Due to time constraint, the Ambassador wasn’t able to talk in depth the relations between Ireland and China. However, he pointed out that their common history of great famines has brought the two countries closer together. Believing that he still has much more to tell, Mr. Kavanagh promised to return for another lecture in the upcoming Fall semester. The event was closed with a Q&A session.