Chinese Premier Li Qiang visits Ireland to discuss European Union relations

  • Chinese Premier Li Qiang is visiting Ireland on Tuesday for discussions with the Irish leader on China’s relations with the European Union.
  • Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will host a lunch and bilateral meeting with Li on Wednesday in Dublin.
  • Varadkar said it is important to maintain good relations with China while acknowledging the need to address certain questions.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang is arriving in Ireland on Tuesday for talks with the Irish leader on China’s relations with the European Union and other global and bilateral issues.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will host a lunch and bilateral meeting with Li on Wednesday at Ireland’s state guest house in Dublin.

“China is a very important political and economic power in the world and becoming bigger all the time in that sense. So it’s important that we have good relations with China but also some questions we will need to talk about as well,” Varadkar said ahead of the visit.

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Li, a close confidant of Chinese President Xi Jinping, was appointed last March as the country’s No. 2 leader and top economic official. A former party secretary for Shanghai, he enforced a strict “zero-COVID” lockdown on Shanghai in 2022.

Li Qiang speaks

Li Qiang, Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China is seen during a plenary session in the Congress Hall at the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Jan. 16, 2024. Qiang is arriving in Ireland on Tuesday for talks with the Irish leader on China’s relations with the European Union and other issues. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

He made Europe the destination for his first trip abroad last summer, visiting Germany and France, Europe’s leading economies, for talks on trade and global issues including climate change and the war in Ukraine.

At the time, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz rejected the idea of “decoupling” from China and instead called for “de-risking” — avoiding overreliance on Chinese trade.

This is the first time a senior Chinese leader has visited Ireland since Li’s predecessor, Li Keqiang, visited in 2015.

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He is set to arrive late Tuesday from the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, where he was the first senior Chinese official to attend since Xi attended the annual gathering in 2017.

Bilateral trade between Ireland and China has grown significantly in recent years, with China now Ireland’s fourth largest trade partner and fifth largest export market.

Asia Matters, an Irish group focused on promoting business links with Asian countries, said one of the topics that could be on Wednesday’s agenda is the resumption of Irish beef exports to China.

The exports were suspended in November after a case of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was discovered by Irish veterinary officials.

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