Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny is looking to China to kick-start his country’s economic recovery.

The Fine Gael leader and jobs minister Richard Bruton have begun an official state visit to Shanghai and Beijing designed to attract Chinese investment.

Over 90 Irish companies are involved with the trade mission led by Kenny as he seeks to cash in on a recent visit to Ireland by China’s vice-president Xi Jinping last month.

Kenny said: “Ireland has advantages which China can benefit from, and China represents a vast market for Irish goods and services.

“Our similarities are greater than our differences and we have in many respects a similar business culture, centred on enterprise and innovation.

“We have been working hard to build a strong awareness and a positive image of Ireland.

“Both Ireland and China have moved rapidly toward a knowledge-based economy built on innovation and technology and our companies have all the elements for working more closely together.”

The four day trade mission will see the Irish PM attend talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice President Xi Jinping.

Irish exports to China exceeded $4billion in 2011, up 6 per cent on the previous year, although many of those were accounted for by multi-national companies.

A report due to be published shortly by Enterprise Ireland suggest that exports by Irish owned companies grew by around 20%, to over $400m.

“We have greatly appreciated the positive signals from China in support of Europe’s efforts to resolve the sovereign debt crisis,” added Kenny.

“There is no doubt that this has helped to stabilise financial markets and in the process made it much easier for us in Ireland to address our own problems.”