Pictured at the launch (from L to R): Dr Liming Wang, Director of UCD Confucius Institute for Ireland; Mr Liu Biwei, the Chinese Ambassador to Ireland; Mr Bredan Waldron, Chairperson of the Ireland China Association; Mr Billy Kelleher, Minister for Trade & Commerce and Mr Dick Spring, former Vice Premier of Ireland.
The UCD Confucius Institute for Ireland and The Irish Institute for Chinese Studies at UCD have published a major report entitled “Irish Business in China – Meeting the Inter-Cultural Challenges”. The report, the culmination of 2 years of work by a team of Irish and Chinese researchers led by Dr Liming Wang, Dr. Lan Li and Professor Cathal Brugha, was launched at a flagship event of The Ireland China Association hosted by Dick Spring, former Tanaiste of Ireland, under the theme “China – Business Opportunities and Risks” at the RDS on October 7th 2009. With Ireland and China currently celebrating 30 years of diplomatic relations, in attendance were several leading actors in the relationship between the two states, including the Chinese ambassador to Ireland, Liu Biwei, Minister for Trade and Commerce, Mr Billy Kelleher and John Kennedy, who, as the Secretary General’s Principal Officer of the Department of the Taoiseach, has a major role in the organisation of Ireland’s contribution to next year’s World Expo in Shanghai. The event brought together many of Ireland’s key players in terms of the nation’s business connections with China.
The presentations delivered by Dr. Wang and Professor Brugha were very well received by the audience of several hundred business executives, as was the report itself. Dr. Wang thanked the report’s sponsors – The Chinese Language Council International (Hanban) and Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. He gave a brief introduction to the work and aims of the Confucius Institute and spoke of this report as representing the most important research to date conducted by the institutes under his direction at UCD. The survey data came from 117 respondents out of 600 questionnaires and 28 interviewees located in both countries. The participants, representing a significant sample of Irish business in China, included people in manufacturing, services, government agencies, and the education sector. Professor Brugha remarked that while many of the research findings would have a familiar resonance among the gathering of China-experienced people at the launch, the comprehensive detail and scope of the report would offer some fresh insights even to those whose experience of doing business in China is deep. Irish business people are enjoying success in China, but not without effort. There is a need to be patient, committed, and able to adapt. Having a physical presence in China is enormously important. There are risks and complexities in doing business in China, and huge contrasts that experienced Irish business people become more conscious of over time. There are also certain similarities between the two cultures which may offer advantages to the Irish in the forging of successful intercultural business relationships with their Chinese counterparts.
Intercultural fluency and personal relationships of trust and cooperation were found to be central to Irish business success. The primacy of these people-to-people relationships contrasts with other business contexts, where institutional and legal frameworks may provide a more typically ‘western’ basis of business interaction. It is important for Irish business people to understand Chinese business culture and practices, and there is a great need in the country for such training. An Irish cultural background can be an advantage, particularly if the Irish educate themselves in Chinese culture, language and history, and recognise certain commonalities in the Irish and Chinese experience. Although huge differences exist between Irish and Chinese culture - most notably with regard to such aspects as saving face and hierarchy - many Irish business people recognise similarities in the high value placed on family and personal friendship, as well as parallels in the historical experience of the two nations. Strong Irish social and business networks have evolved in China, and networks of Chinese people resident in Ireland also offer opportunity to Irish business people. In the current economic crisis, Ireland’s business links with China, as an emerging economic superpower, should form part of our strategy for recovery and help protect the achievements of the Celtic Tiger years.
Copies of this wide-ranging and up-to-date report are available from The Irish Institute for Chinese Studies at UCD and the UCD Confucius Institute for Ireland.