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
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 email@example.com Reuters contributed to this story.
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.
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.