Cel­e­brat­ing ‘42’

The year 2014 is the 42nd an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of diplomatic re­la­tions be­tween China and Ar­gentina, and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s state visit has brought in­vest­ments and a new level of co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two coun­tries, ZHANG FAN rep

China Daily (Canada) - - IN DEPTH -

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping’s state visit to Ar­gentina last week proved to be historic, el­e­vat­ing Sino-Ar­gen­tine bi­lat­eral re­la­tions to a com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship and pro­vid­ing in­vest­ments from en­ergy to in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion. Dur­ing Xi’s meet­ing with Ar­gen­tine coun­ter­part Cristina Fer­nan­dez de Kirch­ner on July 18 in Buenos Aires, the cap­i­tal of Ar­gentina, the two lead­ers signed a joint state­ment es­tab­lish­ing the com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship, which stressed that co­op­er­a­tion in trans­porta­tion and elec­tric fa­cil­i­ties will be a main fo­cus.

This year is the 42nd an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of China-Ar­gen­tine re­la­tions and the 10th year since the two coun­tries es­tab­lished a strate­gic part­ner­ship in 2004.

Chi­nese Am­bas­sador to Ar­gentina Yin Heng­min said cur­rent China-Ar­gen­tine bi­lat­eral re­la­tions are at the best stage in their his­tory, with more fre­quent high-level vis­its and deeper po­lit­i­cal trust.

Yin’s words were echoed by Ar­gen­tine Am­bas­sador Gus­tavo Martino. “Our pres­i­dent, Cristina Fer­nan­dez de Kirch­ner, put the China-Ar­gen­tine re­la­tion­ship in a pri­or­ity po­si­tion,” said Martino. “Xi’s visit will deepen the cur­rent con­nec­tions to a new level.”

Bi­lat­eral re­la­tions be­tween China and Ar­gentina en­joyed rapid devel­op­ment af­ter the 1980 visit to China by then Ar­gen­tine pres­i­dent Jorge Rafael Videla, dur­ing which the two coun­tries signed a com­pre­hen­sive co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment on cul­ture, trade and fi­nance. Mile­stones

Since then, the two gov­ern­ments have main­tained fre­quent vis­its from their re­spec­tive pres­i­dents to min­is­ters. About 50 govern­ment officials from China and Ar­gentina have paid of­fi­cial vis­its to each other’s coun­try since the 1990s, a large num­ber con­sid­er­ing the long dis­tance be­tween the coun­tries.

Chi­nese for­mer pres­i­dent Yang Shangkun vis­ited Ar­gentina in June 1990, the first state visit paid by a Chi­nese pres­i­dent. Five months later, Ar­gentina’s then pres­i­dent Car­los Menem vis­ited China.

The vis­its fur­ther ad­vanced po­lit­i­cal re­la­tions be­tween China and Ar­gentina and have been viewed as mile­stones in the devel­op­ment of bi­lat­eral re­la­tions.

The for­eign min­istries of China and Ar­gentina also es­tab­lished ne­go­ti­a­tion mech­a­nisms in 1990 and have held 12 ne­go­ti­a­tions by 2013. Fif­teen Chi­nese and Ar­gen­tine cities and prov­inces, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal cities of Bei­jing and Buenos Aires, have es­tab­lished friendly re­la­tion­ships.

In 1984, Ar­gentina sup­ported the “Joint Dec­la­ra­tion’’ signed by China and the United King­dom that re­solved the sta­tus of Hong Kong. At the same time, China also sup­ported Ar­gentina in its dis­putes with the UK over the Malv­inas Is­lands, 500 miles off the south­east coast of Ar­gentina.

Chi­nese for­eign min­istry spokesman Hua Chun­y­ing said at a press con­fer­ence on March 11, 2013, that the Malv­inas Is­lands is­sue was “left over by the his­tory of colo­nial­ism” and China’s po­si­tion on this is­sue is “con­sis­tent”.

“We will, as al­ways, sup­port Ar­gentina’s sovereignty claim over the Malv­inas Is­lands and hope that Ar­gentina and the UK could prop­erly solve this is­sue through ne­go­ti­a­tions in ac­cor­dance with rel­e­vant UN res­o­lu­tions,” said Hua.

Mean­while, China and Ar­gentina also main­tained fre­quent cul­tural com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Lo­cal Chi­nese started to hold Spring Fes­ti­val tem­ple fairs in 2006, which at­tracted thou­sands of Ar­gen­tineans.

China launched two Con­fu­cius In­sti­tutes in Ar­gentina for Chi­nese-lan­guage train­ing and lessons on Chi­nese cul­ture. With the ef­forts of the gov­ern­ments and the pub­lic, the first Chi­nese-Span­ish bilin­gual pub­lic school in Ar­gentina was es­tab­lished this March in Buenos Aires.

“Ar­gentina did not pay such at­ten­tion to China when I worked here 20 years ago,” said Yin. “But there are more and more young peo­ple will­ing to learn Chi­nese and un­der­stand Chi­nese cul­ture. This is a ma­jor change in Ar­gentina to­ward China.”

Be­sides co­op­er­a­tion on po­lit­i­cal is­sues, China and Ar­gentina also have en­joyed close eco­nomic ties.

China is Ar­gentina’s sec­ond-largest trade part­ner, the third-largest ex­port­ing mar­ket of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and the third-largest in­vest­ment ori­gin coun­try.

Trade be­tween China and Ar­gentina reached $14.8 bil­lion last year, an in­crease of 2.8 per­cent com­pared with the pre­vi­ous year. Eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion in­volves en­ergy, in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion, fi­nance, telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and agri­cul­ture. Such co­op­er­a­tion helped cre­ate more than 5,000 jobs for Ar­gentina.

“The economies of China and Ar­gentina are highly com­ple­men­tary,” said Yin. “There are a lot of po­ten­tials to be dis­cov­ered in the fu­ture. The two coun­tries can have fur­ther co­op­er­a­tion in high value-added prod­ucts es­pe­cially in the re­search and devel­op­ment of high-tech in­dus­tries to op­ti­mize bi­lat­eral trade struc­ture.”

To stim­u­late eco­nomic devel­op­ment, the Ar­gen­tine govern­ment plans to in­vest more in in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion. “China can play an im­por­tant role in this plan,” said Hec­tor Mar­cos Timer­man, the Ar­gen­tine min­is­ter of For­eign Re­la­tions.

China Gezhouba Group Co Ltd, known for build­ing the coun­try’s Three Gorges Dam, an­nounced in 2013 that it will build two hy­dro­elec­tric dams in Ar­gentina worth $4.7 bil­lion.

The project, in which Gezhouba holds a 60 per­cent in­ter­est and Ar­gentina’s Elec­troin­ge­nieria SA the rest, will in­volve de­sign­ing and build­ing the dams in Patagonia and main­tain­ing them for 15 years.

Timer­man said Ar­gentina will build an ad­di­tional eight large hy­dro­elec­tric dams in 2014 and that the coun­try would be pleased to see Chi­nese com­pa­nies win the bid­ding for the projects.

Be­sides hy­dro­elec­tric, China also has launched sev­eral projects with Ar­gentina in rail­way con­struc­tion. Xin­hua re­ported that Ar­gentina signed a $9-mil­lion project in 2013 for 81 sub­ur­ban rail­way carriages to im­prove pas­sen­ger safety in the cap­i­tal city of Buenos Aires.

China’s CNR Corp Ltd, based in Bei­jing, also gained a se­ries of con­tracts in Ar­gentina, in­clud­ing a $2.2 bil­lion con­tract in 2010 for high-speed lo­co­mo­tives and pas­sen­ger trains.

China and Ar­gentina signed a $10-bil­lion co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment in the same year un­der which Ar­gentina will get tech­nolo­gies and elec­tric fa­cil­i­ties for 10 rail­way con­struc­tion projects.

“The Ar­gen­tine govern­ment ap­pre­ci­ates China’s ef­fort in es­tab­lish­ing good re­la­tions with de­vel­op­ing economies, and I hope the two sides can con­tinue to deepen their co­op­er­a­tion in trans­porta­tion in­dus­try,” Timer­man said. Huwei, CNOOC

Huwei Tech­nolo­gies Co, a lead­ing Chi­nese multi­na­tional net­work­ing and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment and ser­vices com­pany head­quar­tered in Shen­zhen, Guang­dong, en­tered Ar­gentina in 2001 and has gained rapid devel­op­ment. It had in­vested about $120 mil­lion in Ar­gentina by 2013, and last year moved its South Amer­i­can head­quar­ters from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Buenos Aires, which is ex­pected to give $20 mil­lion in rev­enue to the Ar­gen­tine govern­ment.

China Na­tional Off­shore Oil Cor­po­ra­tion (CNOOC), a ma­jor na­tional oil com­pany in China, in­vested $3.1 bil­lion in 2010 and ac­quired a 50 per­cent stake in Bri­das Corp, Ar­gentina’s largest oil com­pany, mark­ing CNOOC’s first ac­qui­si­tion of shares in Latin Amer­ica.

Ar­gentina rec­og­nized China’s mar­ket econ­omy sta­tus in 2004. The two sides have held 19 ses­sions of the China-Ar­gentina joint com­mit­tee on trade and econ­omy, with the lat­est one in Buenos Aires last year.

Work­ing groups on rail­way trans­port, in­fra­struc­ture and min­ing held meet­ings on co­op­er­a­tion in in­vest­ment, fi­nance and trade and reached mul­ti­ple agree­ments.

Dur­ing Xi’s visit, the two coun­tries signed about 20 agree­ments, in­clud­ing a $7.5 bil­lion loan from China to Ar­gentina for the con­struc­tion of two hy­dro­elec­tric dams in Patagonia. The project’s con­tract was won by China’s Gezhouba Group Corp last year to­gether with lo­cal gi­ant Elec­troin­ge­nieria.

China also agreed to an $11 bil­lion cur­rency swap op­er­a­tion be­tween the coun­tries’ cen­tral banks over three years, which al­lows Ar­gentina to pay for Chi­nese im­ports with yuan cur­rency. Con­tact the writer at fanzhang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com Reuters con­trib­uted to this story.

REUTERS REUTERS

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Ar­gen­tine Pres­i­dent Cristina Fer­nan­dez de Kirch­ner shake hands dur­ing an of­fi­cial wel­com­ing cer­e­mony at the Casa Rosada govern­ment palace in Buenos Aires on July 18. Pres­i­dent Xi re­ceives an Ar­gen­tine soc­cer jersey with his name on it from Ar­gen­tine Vi­cePres­i­dent Amado Boudou on July 19.

DING LIN / XIN­HUA

Above: Pres­i­dent Xi (cen­ter) meets with Ar­gen­tine Vice-Pres­i­dent and Se­nate Pres­i­dent Amado Boudou (left) and Cham­ber of Deputies Pres­i­dent Ju­lian Dominguez (right) in Buenos Aires on July 19. Right: Pres­i­dent Xi tours Repub­lic Manor, about 70 kilo­me­ters out­side of Buenos Aires to learn about agri­cul­ture tech­nol­ogy and tra­di­tional Ar­gen­tine cul­ture on July 19.

LAN HONG­GUANG / XIN­HUA

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