By Evandro Menezes de Carvalho
The current tour of President Xi Jinping that began in Spain, passing through Argentina for the G20 meeting, followed by Panama, and ending in Portugal has two main objectives. The first was to put an end to the US trade war against China and to promote the defense of multilateralism. And the second objective was to expand international cooperation, taking into account the opportunities created by the Belt and Road Initiative.
This was a journey through the Spanish-Lusitanian world. But the visit to Portugal holds a special meaning.
Portugal is proud to have been one of the first nations to traverse the seas and continents of the world, opening maritime and land routes. It dominated the Atlantic, but also crossed the Pacific, reaching India and Macao. It is a country that keeps alive in its memory, the spirit of openness in exploring and embracing the world. This is the reason why I believe that Portugal tends to be an enthusiastic partner of the Belt and Road Initiative.
In addition, China and Portugal have something that unites them: Macao. And the coming year will see the celebration of 20 years of the return of Macao to China. There are several important meanings in this celebration. And one of them that must be highlighted is how Macao has become a symbol of friendship between the two nations and, more broadly, China’s friendship with all Portuguese-speaking countries. China knew how to transform an aspect of its history into a diplomatic asset, and instead of harassing the ancient invader of the past, made it a friend in the present and the future.
A better example of this positive diplomatic attitude is the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Portuguese Speaking Countries (Forum Macao) launched in 2003. This forum has become the most important multilateral and intergovernmental co-operation mechanisms that represent the strength of the friendship between China and the eight other countries in this category - namely Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, East Timor, and São Tomé and Principe. Macao is the symbol of this union, a connecting city between those countries and cultures.
This is the first official visit of Xi Jinping to Portugal, and there is no doubt that the environment is conducive to deepening bilateral cooperation, as well as to begin preparations to celebrate the anniversary of four decades of diplomatic union between the two countries next year, a close relationship that can also bring China closer to Europe.
Portugal is more than just a trading partner. It is a partner in building a culturally richer world open to differences, to promote knowledge born on the soil of lands speaking its language. Such a country is aware of the power of dialogue and ideas, and can better understand the positive impact of a project like the Belt and Road.
This visit of President Xi Jinping to Portugal can give a new boost to the relationship between the two countries. As Xi Jinping said, it is a “friendship that transcends time and space, a future-oriented friendship.”
Evandro Menezes de Carvalho is chief executive editor of the Brazilian version of the magazine China Today and head of the Brazil-China Studies Center of FGV Law School, Brazil.