ONE of the men behind a group charged with securing Chinese investment believes thousands of jobs can be created if Limerick takes advantage of a link with Nanjing.
For the last 20 years, Dublin City University Professor Cathal Brugha has been studying the relationship between Chinese people and Irish people.
He has been instrumental in securing links between Dublin and Beijing, and Cork and Shanghai.
Now, he wants to help Limerick enhance its connection with the areas of Nanjing and Xi’an, in central-eastern China.
Ultimately, it is hoped to develop a deep-sea port in Limerick to aid the Chinese development - and deliver thousands of local jobs, he said.
Prof Brugha, of UCD’s Business School, believes the Chinese heritage is similar to the Irish.
“They went from being a rural society, based on small businesses to a high-tech software and services business-led. Very similar to us. The Chinese people built the railway in America from their side to half way, Irish people built the other half,” he said.
He said that Chinese people feel a remarkable sense of loyalty to cities their home place is twinned with - and will holiday there as a result.
Patience is key, Prof Brugha says, because the Chinese approach is to build a relationship first, then do business later - turning the western way of doing things on its head.
A deep sea port is some years away - something that can happen immediately is the bringing in of students.
“[Chinese parents] want to send their child to get a better education: to learn English, which is a second language in China. Chinese people want to be traders, so this means they have to train their children to work abroad. The need for education is growing so quickly that they do not have enough universities at third level to do what they want. So the idea of UL, LIT and Mary I is wonderful to them,” he said.
Since Cork secured a twinning agreement with Shanghai, it has become the seventh most popular destination for Chinese tourists. If Limerick can secure anything close to that, it augurs well for the future of the city.