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China-Portugal ties set to help fuel East-West cooperation

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-05-26 17:55

Sino-Portuguese relations are poised to tap academic, cultural and other exchanges for growing East-West cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative drive, environmental sustainability, anti-pandemic measures and other efforts toward shared development, according to the latest international analysis.

Close contacts have been established and continuously strengthened in various fields between the two sides, with Portugal also the first European country on the Atlantic coast to sign a memorandum of understanding and cooperation on the BRI with China, said Wang Linggui, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Joint research work on green development, ecological protection and climate change, as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges to discuss other global issues, such as economic recovery, public health governance and poverty reduction, will help strengthen the cooperation, he said.

Wang was speaking at a global forum themed "The Future of Sino-Portuguese and Sino-European Cooperation" on Tuesday. The online event, hosted by CASS's Bureau of International Cooperation and Institute of European Studies, and Portugal's University of Coimbra, and organized by the CASS-UC Center of China Studies, brought together leading academics, diplomats, researchers, educators and other luminaries. More than 20 speakers from both sides covered major topics ranging from economics and trade to history, law, public health and climate change.

Chinese Ambassador to Portugal Zhao Bentang said the opportunities for Sino-Portuguese and Sino-European cooperation brought by an environmentally sustainable Silk Road in a post-pandemic world of global economic recovery were highly significant, with BRI partnerships and projects already showing strong resilience amid the challenges posed by COVID-19.

China's trade and direct investment in goods with its BRI partners have increased significantly, including the number of China-Europe freight trains and containers, Zhao said. The BRI is rapidly becoming a way to unite in the global fight against the epidemic, to safeguard human health and safety, and to promote economic and social recovery, he said.

"Green is the bright background of the BRI. Over the years, China has actively advocated and promoted the integration of green, ecological concepts in the joint construction of the BRI to improve policy communication and facilitate connectivity, trade, financing and people-to-people bonds.

"China firmly practices multilateralism, and strives to promote the construction of a fair, reasonable, and win-win global environmental governance system," Zhao said.

"China is willing to work with Portugal and Europe to further strengthen the alignment of their development strategies, deepen cooperation in the field of the green economy, and jointly promote the realization of more sustainable and higher-quality development, which will better benefit the two peoples and contribute to building a community with a shared future for mankind."

Portuguese Ambassador to China Jose Augusto Duarte said China and Portugal have maintained successful exchanges and mutual understanding for five centuries, with the relations based not only on economic and trade cooperation, but also on music, science and culture.

China's development in recent years is precisely the development of openness, maintaining interaction and knowledge exchange with other countries and sharing its development, he said.

Portugal, China and the EU must now cooperate to meet common challenges, including strengthening exchanges in response to climate change and the fight against the pandemic, he said. China and Europe need to maintain serious, honest and frequent exchanges on different related issues, he said.

Amilcar Falcao, rector of the University of Coimbra, said the university and academy have rolled out a range of important projects in their cooperation covering major fields such as the humanities, culture and technology, with the Portuguese side always attaching great importance to the relationship with China. Within the context of openness and exchange, cooperation also is important with Portuguese-speaking areas, such as Brazil and African countries, and in particular China's Macao Special Administrative Region, for the bilateral relationship, he said.

In terms of the global challenges posed by climate change, tapping Chinese technology and working with China in its commitment to realize the revitalization of Africa through sustainable infrastructure investment to better meet the needs of the young in the developing world is crucial, said Rui Lourido, president of the China Observatory think tank in Portugal.

Portugal hopes to become a hub for cargo transshipment in Europe and Africa that is linked to China, leveraging its ocean shipping, especially deep-water ports, as China's gateway to Europe, he said.

To that effect, the Port of Sines is poised for greater cooperation with its Chinese partners and offers major opportunities for Chinese companies aiming to set up business in Europe and tap European markets, said Jose Luis Cacho, president of the Portuguese port's administration.

The deep-water facility boasts major links with China's Shanghai, Ningbo and Yantian ports, showing "great resilience" amid the pandemic with cargo volumes rising year-on-year, he said.

China and the EU are "irreplaceable economic and trade partners", said Yao Ling, director and research fellow of the European Institute, Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Commerce.

Taking the lead in controlling COVID-19 and restoring economic growth, China has contributed to ensuring the stability of the global industrial and supply chain, and provided support for the EU economy to get out of the impact of the epidemic as soon as possible, she said.

The driving force for the development of China-EU economic and trade relations lies in the fact that both sides regard each other as a partnership, Yao said.

Holding the forum is not only a concrete step in implementing the consensus reached by the leaders of China and Portugal, but also an important opportunity for deepening exchanges between the two countries for closer people-to-people bonds, according to Zhang Min, executive director of the CASS-UC Center of China Studies.

The issues raised and addressed at the forum show that, amid the global challenges, there remains much optimism for the future of bilateral relations and potential cooperation between the two sides, said Feng Zhongping, director of the academy's Institute of European Studies.

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