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Chinese Premier Li Qiang to visit Ireland next week


Chinese Premier Li Qiang to visit Ireland next week

Photo: Niall Carson / Associated Press

Ireland’s head of government, Leo Varadkar, is set to host Chinese Premier Li Qiang today, marking 45 years of diplomatic ties between both nations.

Varadkar and Li are set to discuss global, bilateral, and EU-China relations as key issues. The Taoiseach asserted the talks would focus “on issues where we are of like-mind, as well as,” issues of “a different perspective.”

Throughout his brief tenure as Premier, Li has proven instrumental in delivering the message that China is reopening to business, embracing private enterprise and entrepreneurship. Chinese trade with Ireland hit 25 billion Euros in 2022, and more than 40 Chinese companies now have offices in Ireland. Despite growing trade ties, bilateral politics are mixed. Garda Intelligence, Ireland’s secret police, have canceled all leave and rest days for their staff in Dublin and the surrounding counties in preparation for the visit, in response to fears of worsening relations between both nations since Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin’s Beijing visit in November 2023. Martin had previously spoken about “de-risking but not de-coupling” from Ireland-China relations earlier in 2023.

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In the short term, maintaining and establishing a steady economic relationship will likely renew confidence in bilateral relations. Medium-to-long-term, China may use these talks to build a stronger economic foothold within the EU, as well as distract from the worsening humanitarian situations brewing in regions like Xinjiang. Ireland may agree to build this economic partnership but will likely look to de-risk their relationship to ensure economic independence from China. Politically, it may be difficult for Ireland to separate their economic relationship with China from total support of its authoritarian regime.

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