The potential for collaboration between Galway and the Chinese city of Huzhou could be huge, says Kam Chin, Chairman of Irish Chinese Society Galway. He speaks to Rebecca Maher.
The Chinese City of Huzhou could become a gateway for Irish services, culture and products to enter the world’s second largest economy.
That’s according to the Chairman of Irish Chinese Society Galway (ICSG), who says Galway also has the potential to become a hub of investment for the Chinese market.
Kam Chin believes the relationship between Galway and Huzhou has the potential to be equally rewarding to both cities.
Having just returned from a recent delegation tour to China from Galway, Mr Chin says it is “truly an exciting and unique situation” for Galway as they hope to build close links with a city in China.
The focus of the delegation tour, which was organised by Mr Chin, was to foster and maintain the friendly relationship between the two cities to date.
The historic delegation tour visited Hong Kong, Huzhou and Shanghai and follows on from the successful tour made by the Chinese delegation to Galway last year.
The Hong Kong St. Patrick’s Day Parade had a distinctive Galway element to it in the form of members from the ICSG, along with business and political representatives from Galway including Galway West TD Noel Grealish, Minister of State Sean Canney, City Cllr Declan McDonnell and President of the Chamber of Commerce Conor O’Dowd.
“This is the very first time the Galway flag was raised in Hong Kong,” Mr Chin says.
Plans are in place for Galway to become a twin city with Huzhou – something Mr Chin says will benefit both regions.
“This relationship encompasses the growth of culture, finance, trading, information technology, manufacturing, tourism, education and property sectors so all the areas will be opened for collaboration,” he explains.
According to Mr Chin they are “very hopeful” of establishing a close relationship between the two cities.
“When you look at a city like Dublin or Cork they are already twinned with Beijing and Shanghai, and they both benefit from the agreement because one of the two city comes and signs the agreement and it means they both trust each other and can do business.”
While the door may be open for collaboration between the two cities, it could take time before an official agreement is signed.
He explains, “We spoke to the City Manager Brendan McGrath before we headed off to China, he said he would meet us after we return from the trip and if the report is good he will consider proposing to the city council that they form an official delegation to visit Huzhou. If that takes place, we can expect they would sign a friendship agreement first.
“And then, once this friendship agreement is signed the Huzhou government will give a return visit to Galway City and then I think a twinning agreement would be signed at that stage. It really takes a while to go through all these procedures.”
Asked why Huzhou was chosen as a potential twin city for Galway, Mr Chin says there are “so many similarities” between the two cities.
“We need to see how the two sides can work together before they can really go into agreement so we can see Huzhou City is a wealthy city and they have the strength in IT, building materials, education and tourism and that’s where we can work with them. They are also looking for investment opportunities outside the country.”
According to Mr Chin, the Chinese market are looking to invest in education and are actively recruiting teachers to teach English in China.
The food industry and medical device sector is also something they are interested in investing in in Galway.
With a surge in the Chinese economy over the last number of years and, with that, the number of people choosing to study the language also increasing, Mr Chin believes it is an important tool, especially for people doing business.
“When you can speak the language it shows an element of respect,” he says.
“I speak English so that we can communicate and understand each other and we can build our relationship from here so I think language is important for understanding and building a friendship and showing a kind of respect.
“If you can learn the Chinese language I think it will benefit you in the future because if you were to do business with a partner then you better have a good understanding of their language.”