Portugal-China relations, 45 years of development.





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It was on February 8, 1979, that Portugal established official diplomatic relations with China, however, Portugal is one of the European nations that maintains the longest friendly relations with China. Since the 16th century, the Portuguese language began its relationship with the Chinese language, writing, and culture, and the impact of Mandarin abroad would never stop. With China's economic and social development in recent decades, the Chinese Language and Culture have opened up even more to the world and, through a joint initiative between China, its universities, and foreign universities on various continents, 489 Confucius and 817 rooms (of non-higher education), involving 158 countries and regions, according to official data from 2021. In Portuguese-speaking countries, around 20 Confucius Institutes are in operation (with Cape Verde standing out, with the availability of teaching Chinese in the curricula of various university and secondary courses). In Portugal, 5 Confucius Institutes are in full operation, in the cities of Braga, Porto, Aveiro, Coimbra, and Lisbon. In China, more than 40 universities teach Portuguese to Chinese students. The spread of Chinese culture in the West began before the Middle Ages, brought by Islamic peoples to the Iberian Peninsula. However, it was only with Portuguese and European religious people and merchants that it spread throughout Europe. The Portuguese were so fascinated by the sophisticated and advanced Chinese civilization (namely silks, porcelain, and the importance of scholars in command of public administration), that they were pioneering agents in the dissemination of Chinese culture to other Western nations, which would come to influence the Enlightenment itself and European fashion, with a Chinese taste (known as chinoiserie). The civilizational successes of the Chinese socialist system, by having its people at the center of its government's political action and due to China's development, allowed the historic feat of lifting 850 million inhabitants out of poverty (according to the IMF itself), with access universal access to work, health, housing, and education. According to the World Bank, since 2017, China has become the richest nation in the world in terms of Comparative Purchasing Power and the second richest in Gross Domestic Product. With economic development, the Chinese expanded their openness to the world, taking on more responsibilities in supporting United Nations agencies, namely in combating pandemics and supporting efforts to pacify global conflicts. Despite the frustrated attempt by the United States of America and radical sectors of the European Union, to stop China's development, a large part of Europe's business and social fabric recognizes that without China's post-pandemic recovery, the world economy would be in disarray. crisis and in the case of Europe it would be in an even greater recession than that seen in countries like Germany. China's economic growth allowed a new historic maximum in total trade between Portuguese-speaking Countries and China, which reached 220.869 billion dollars in 2023, 2.81% more than in 2022, according to Services of China Customs. Globally, the movement was very positive, as exports to China (147.470 billion dollars) increased by 6.24%, compared to 2022, while imports from China (73.399 billion dollars), made by Portuguese-speaking countries, reduced by 3.45% compared to 2022. Allowing all Portuguese-speaking countries to have a record positive balance of payments against China of 74.1 billion dollars. However, we must take into account that the greatest growth in exports was due to Brazil, whose sales rose by a record 11.9% (122.4 billion dollars), only followed by a record increase in exports from Mozambique of 33, 9% (1.79 billion dollars) and Cape Verde's sales to China more than tripled (72 thousand dollars). Other Portuguese-speaking countries reduced their exports to China. In the case of Portugal, sales of goods to China fell by 4.1% (2.91 billion dollars). The most recent data show that from January to December 2023, total trade between Portugal and China reached 8.704 billion dollars (representing 3.2% less compared to 2022). Portugal imported goods worth US$5.792 billion from China and exported US$2.911 billion. In 2023, China continued to be Portugal's largest trading partner in Asia. The stock of Chinese investment in Portugal reached 3.473 billion euros, and Portuguese investment in China has also grown steadily.

Portugal is also relevant to China due to its intense relations with the rest of Europe and with Portuguese-speaking countries. Portugal, to safeguard itself from the crises of Western economies, must know how to diversify its economic circuits to other economies, namely in Africa, South America, and Asia, intensifying its cooperation with China, in clean energy, and green vehicles, among other technologically advanced fields, which incorporate more value in the products to be produced. It will be essential to reinforce Portuguese participation in the Chinese Initiative for the new Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative), particularly with the creation of the double connection of Sines, with the intra-European railway linked to Madrid on the one hand, and with the oceanic port of Sines on the other. Maritime Silk Road.

Civil society also has a very diverse and important activity, from economic to cultural and scientific relations. The activity of various trade and industry promotion associations for large, medium, and small companies (some more consolidated, others more recent) is intense, as is the case of the young Union of Cooperation and Friendship Associations in Portugal China. In cultural relations, Chinese New Year, initiated by different Chinese communities, especially in the North and Center of Portugal, with support from the Chinese Embassy, is always a great public celebration that mobilizes the Portuguese population in the respective cities. During 2023, several conferences, shows, and exhibitions about China were organized. Numerous Chinese delegations were received in Portugal and many other Portuguese delegations traveled to China.

Due to the scientific and cultural public service, it provides internationally, I highlight the Macau-China Digital Library (http://purl.pt/26918/1/EN/index.html). The China Observatory and the National Library of Portugal organized (November 2023 to March 2024) the cartography and art exhibition - China seen from Europe: 16th-19th centuries, with the support of research centers and universities in Portugal, from Italy to America and China.

The Portuguese Community in China and the Chinese Community in Portugal have grown since the creation of the Macau Special Administrative Region to such an extent that, in addition to the Embassy in Beijing and the Consulate in Macau, Portugal opened a new consulate in Guangzhou. On the other hand, the Chinese Community in Portugal has been growing moderately, being the tenth largest foreign community in the country, made up in 2023 of around 35 thousand Chinese and Chinese Portuguese.

Relations between Portugal and China must (as has always happened) continue to deepen with mutual benefit and respect!