Top ranking politicians, business figures and other, strategic decision makers from seven key regions across China visited Northern Ireland over the weekend for the UK-China Regional Leaders Summit.
It was the third such Summit, the first two having been hosted by the 'Northern Powerhouse' and 'Midlands Engine City Cluster' areas of England, respectively. The Summits were initiated by UK Prime Minister David Cameron while he was in office, and now take place every other year.
This was the first such Summit to feature provincial leaders from key areas of China meeting with a devolved UK administration. It was officially hosted by the Northern Ireland Bureau in Beijing, with support from the NI Executive Office, DAERA, Invest NI, plus other stakeholders.
The NI China Bureau bid successfully to host the Summit in NI in light of the Bureau's work in developing relations between NI and China over the last three years, particularly in the provinces of Liaoning and Hubei.
The Summit looked at four key themes: agri-food security; health services technology; innovation/knowledge economy; and creative screen industries.
Queen's was very proud to have a high profile over the whole event, culminating in a visit to IGFS on Saturday by a selection of delegates particularly interested in food security, food integrity and enhanced trade and research links. The visit to IGFS was the only Summit workshop that took place off-site and represented a desire on the part of a number of delegates to see the labs and associated technology at IGFS.
IGFS founder Professor Chris Elliott has already forged strong links with China, and heads up the EU China-Safe Programme, one of the largest food-security projects in the world. Chris is also a Visiting Professor at China Agricultural University plus the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
As well as the IGFS visit, Queen's was represented at the main part of the Summit at the Belfast Waterfront on Saturday morning, where Professor Elliott gave a comprehensive presentation on areas of mutual interest and concern. Professor Sir John McCanny also presented at the Waterfront on Queen's international work on cyber-security; Professor Mark Lawler gave an update on links with China on cancer research; and Professor Michael Alcorn addressed the event on the strength of NI's creative industries.
The China Friendship Association joined some delegates from the Summit for a separate visit to Queen's, on the Sunday, to view the Robert Hart Collection. Portadown-born Robert Hart was a Queen's graduate who became a British diplomat in China and served as Inspector-General of China's Imperial Maritime Custom Service, from 1863 to 1911.
Around 100 Chinese visitors who attended the Summit also attended a number of other civic and cultural events including a reception at Belfast City Hall, celebrating Belfast's connections with its Chinese sister city, Shenyang - where China Queen's College is situated.
Delegates also enjoyed a welcome dinner at Parliment Buildings, Stormont; a gala dinner at the Titanic Hotel; tours of Titanic Belfast visitor centre, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, and the North Coast including the Giant's Causeway.