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*Mme Xia Lining, Ambassaador HE Xiangdong, Mary Considine,Deputy CEO, Finance and Corporate Services Shannon Group and Andrew Murphy, Managing Director Shannon Airport. Photograph: Arthur Ellis.

China’s Ambassador designate to Ireland visited Shannon Airport for the first time on Friday in what was his first tour outside of Dublin since arriving in Ireland on May 3rd.

He Xiangdong held a “very positive” meeting with Mary Considine, Deputy CEO of Shannon Group and Shannon Airport’s Managing Director, Andrew Murphy.

Considine noted, “The visit was even more special as this year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Ireland. We had a very positive meeting during which we discussed the very close ties between our region and China, as well as the opportunities that exist to deepen these in the years ahead. We would like to thank His Excellency, Dr. Yue Xiaoyong, whom Mr. He Xiangdong succeeds, and wish him well.”

During his visit the Ambassador designate, who was accompanied by his wife Mme. Xia Lining toured Bunratty Castle and Folk Park and the Shannon Free Zone. They also received a comprehensive briefing on the companies operated by Shannon Group and their impact on the regional and national economy. Murphy said, “It was a pleasure to meet with the Ambassador designate and his wife. We look forward to strengthening the strong friendship between Shannon and China in the years ahead.”

Shannon’s relationship with China dates back to 1980 when Jiang Zemin – then an official who would later become president of China – led a delegation to Shannon to study the Shannon Free Zone. So impressed was he that the Shannon Free Zone model was adopted across China and led to the development of their hugely successful special economic zones, which inspired China’s economic boom.

Jiang Zemin’s visit to Shannon began a stream of visits which saw two Chinese premiers and many Chinese government delegations come to the region to further explore the regional economic development model. Since then, among those to have visited Shannon were, Premier Zhu Rongji, Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice Premier Huang Ju and Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan and the current Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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