First Minister Arlene Foster in China for four days of high-level talks

Arlene Foster will have meetings in Shanghai and Beijing
Arlene Foster will have meetings in Shanghai and Beijing

First Minister Arlene Foster has begun an official visit to China, during which she is expected to meet senior Chinese business and political figures.

The DUP leader left on Sunday and will be in China until Thursday.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness made a last-minute decision to pull out of the visit due to “unforeseen personal circumstances” but said that Mrs Foster had his “best wishes and support” to continue the trip alone.

Stormont Castle said that the purpose of the trip was to strengthen government to government contacts and increase trade, tourism, education agriculture/food and economic links between Northern Ireland and China and to promote the role of the Executive’s office in China.

The First Minister is due to meet Chinese Vice Premier Madam Liu Yandong, who visited Northern Ireland in 2013.

Mrs Foster is expected to attend meetings with the Shanghai Port Investment Group and the Huawei R&D head office in Shanghai.

The DUP leader will also meet with members of the Northern Ireland diaspora in the city of Shenyang (formerly Mukden) before travelling to the capital, Beijing, for meetings with senior figures, including members of the China Investment Corporation.

Representatives of the China Investment Corporation recently visited Belfast for two days of meetings, amid speculation that it may be considering significant investment in Northern Ireland infrastructure projects.