Comrade Eleven

Hu was it that advised statesmen to speak softly and carry a big stick?  ‘Twas the self-styled Bull Moose of Oyster Bay, that’s hu.  In that spirit, Vice President Xi Jinping has been carefully, quietly visiting both the high and the low in the United States and in Ireland.  Xi greets the elite behind closed doors and meets the rural masses in the full light of glorious day, with press cameras clicking furiously away and journalists earnestly recording the reactions of the peasantry when they report how nice and down-to-earth he is.   Some if it –all of it– may even be true.

All week in Sixmilebridge, the talk has been that ’11’ (after the Roman numbers XI) was coming.

James Lynch Sr gave his intensely interested visitor a matter-of-fact account of his 215-acre farm in Cappagh, Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, which supports a herd of 120 pedigree Friesian cows and a smaller number of beef cattle.  The Chinese leader was clearly interested in the co-operative dimension of Irish agriculture.  Mr Xi said: “I think this form of production and processing is very good, that each farm produces the product and then it is processed on a collective basis; that works well.”

That's the Ag Minister, not the farmer, at left.


As vice-chairman of Dairygold Co-op, [Lynch] went to China in November as part of an Irish agricultural trade mission, traveling to the city of Hothot in inner Mongolia and its dairying hinterland.   “The average farm there is about 10 acres and milks seven cows. The milk yields are about one third of what we get here so he wanted to learn how we operate.”

Dairygold Co-operative Society, which exports €10 million worth of the key ingredients for milk-based infant formula to China, has its roots in the co-operative movement which took hold in Ireland in the 19th century, inspired by Cork-born reformer William Thompson (1775-1833), who also laid some of the ideological foundations for communism.

  • “He was very interested in the quality and protein of the grass. He knew his stuff. He has a background in agriculture and understands it.”
  • “He was very much into lactation and the number of days cows are milking and the production of the cows.”
  • “He was very interested in the milking machine and the technology used and the time it takes to milk the cows.”
  • “He was very interested in the traceability that is involved with ear tags — how long the traceability (along the food chain) stayed with the animal.”
  • “He was very friendly, absolutely fierce nice — a very family-orientated man.”
  • “He was very much at ease with us, chatting with my mother and he even drank an Irish coffee. He came across as a very friendly and modest man and an extremely courteous one.”

Yes, it’s no surprise that VP Xi would be interested in infant formula, food chain traceability and agricultural production technology.  Nor is it surprising that he’s a courteous, affable man.  And it’s always good to remember that he knows how to swing a big stick as well.  When the Chinese take up the sport of hurling, everyone should take notice.

The lad at left has "the football."



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