Zhao Bentang, China’s new ambassador to Portugal, argues that the perspective for cooperation between the two countries “is very broad” and highlights energy, digital economy, health as new areas of cooperation.
In an article published in the Portuguese press, entitled “Making joint efforts to build a bright future for Sino-Portuguese relations”, Zhao recalls that Portugal and China are global strategic partners, with “strong economic and technological complementarity” and “a very broad perspective for cooperation”.
“The Chinese side is willing to create more synergy with the Portuguese side in terms of development strategy, deepen cooperation in the areas of economy and trade, energy, infrastructure, digital technology, health, green development, and in third markets, to better benefit peoples and make an even greater contribution to regional and international development and prosperity”, says the diplomat, who succeeded Cai Run.
In the article, Zhao stresses that China is Portugal’s biggest partner in Asia and that the value of Chinese investment for each inhabitant in Portugal is one of the largest in the European Union.
“Projects in areas such as infrastructure, energy and others are making progress, while new areas of cooperation are constantly emerging, such as industry, the digital economy, health, etc.”, he says.
Cooperation in the framework of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, he adds, “goes beyond the bilateral scope, since trilateral cooperation in Europe, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean is experiencing strong growth”.
Formerly director-general of the Commercial Department for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, the new ambassador delivered his credential letters in March to the Portuguese president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
Bilateral relations have been intensifying, namely with the visit to Portugal of the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, in 2018 and Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to China in 2019.
These visits, says the diplomat, took the “China-Portugal Global Strategic Partnership to a new level” and “under strategic guidance and commitment from the leaders of the two countries, high-level contacts have been frequent, mutual political trust is constantly deepened, cooperation within the Belt and Road achieves fruitful results and cultural and interpersonal exchanges are increasingly diverse”.
In the article, Zhao highlights the growing flow of Chinese tourists to Portugal, the increase in Chinese students studying in Portugal, and in particular the fact that there are more than 30 higher education institutions in China that have Portuguese language courses, while in Portugal many institutes or schools have Chinese language courses.
“Since the emergence of covid-19, thanks to understanding, support and mutual help, the Sino-Portuguese friendship has deepened, the China-Portugal Global Strategic Partnership has grown stronger”, says the Chinese ambassador, the 14th since the establishment diplomatic relations.
In the article, the diplomat quotes Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who recalled that the Portuguese and the Chinese met about 500 years ago and that the relationship between the two countries “is exceptional”.
“I agree with that a lot. Although China and Portugal are located at both ends of Eurasia, the friendship between their peoples goes back a long way.
China and Portugal established diplomatic relations in February 1979 and a Global Strategic Partnership in 2005.