AFTER the landmark visit of Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping to the region at the weekend, it has emerged that the Mayor of Limerick Jim Long is to lead a local delegation to Nanjing next week.
Potential student exchanges between Limerick and the Nanjing - a former Chinese capital with a population of eight million - are a priority for discussion while the mayor said cultural and trade links between the two cities would also be explored.
Meanwhile, Shannon Development chief executive Dr Vincent Cunnane is also China-bound after getting a personal invitation from Mr Xi, pictured, widely tipped to be China’s next leader. That trip is expected to take place in June.
Mayor Long said he would leave for China next week, accompanied by Deputy Mayor Kevin Kiely, an official from City Hall and a representative from the education sector in Limerick.
The mayor will not be travelling in the same style as Mr Xi arrived in Shannon. Both he and Cllr Kiely are travelling economy class (fare €730) and the bill for three nights in a hotel for the councillors comes in at €210 each.
“I actually declined business class,” said the mayor, saying he had also turned down requests from other councillors who wished to take a peek behind the Bamboo Curtain.
The mayoral visit arises from a meeting in Limerick last December, when Cllr Long entertained a 16-strong delegation from Nanjing interested in fostering links with an Irish city.
Limerick had since positioned itself ahead of other regional cities and Mayor Long said he had been working with Chinese officials and Irish diplomats to progress the plans.
“We have agreed to establish links between Limerick and Nanjing in education, culture and trade. I have being asked to sign a memorandum of friendship between our two cities,” he said.