University link-up boosts commercial ties to China
Business and academic relations between China and Northern Ireland are set to deepen today as major areas of cooperation are announced between the province's two universities.
The University of Ulster in Jordanstown will see the opening of the country's first Confucius Institute - a network of bodies set up to improve understanding of China.
And Queen's University will today announce it is setting up a China Queen's College with the China Medical University in Shenyang.
The events will be attended by State Councillor Madame Liu Yandong, the highest ranking female politician in the Communist Party of China and serving member of the Politburo.
Queen's new partnership will see around 1,000 Chinese students studying for Queen's University Belfast degrees in pharmaceutical science in the new college.
Prof Chris Shaw from the Queen's school of pharmacy said the relationship would ultimately help Northern Ireland's pharmaceutical industry as it would benefit from "a direct link into the centre of Chinese pharmaceutical development".
"Our vision is to try and massively expand the pharmaceutical industry with respect to research and development and even production," he said.
"Everything begins with a small step and we believe this is actually a very large step we are taking in realising this vision. We want to try and grow the sector and that will have an enormous benefit for the local community and economy."
President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Peter Gregson said: "The creation of a joint college with one of China's top health sciences universities is based on a real and vibrant partnership. It will provide many opportunities and deliver real outcomes for society in China, in the UK and in Ireland."
Madame Yandong will also witness the signing of agreements between Queen's and Shanghai Jiaotong University, Peking University and the Chinese Scholarship Council, to build on existing links in China.
At the University of Ulster, dean of the faculty of the arts Professor Pol O Dochartaigh said the link-up was a major development.
"China is already the world's second largest economy and it is swiftly closing the gap on the United States. We need to make sure we are ready for that," he said.
"When business executives go to China, they will have a head start if they show a willingness to engage with the language and if they show a knowledge of the subtle cultural differences that exist between our two nations.
"For example, when you are striking a deal with a Chinese business partner, they may invite you for a meal in their home. Westerners might think that is rather quaint but what they may not realise is their hosts expect them to reciprocate when they visit your country.
"If you don't, it may be interpreted as a sign that you are not really all that interested."
The Confucius Institute will run courses for exporters keen to improve their employees' language skills and knowledge of China's business culture.