China “determined and pro-active” about the future of the relationship with Portuguese-speaking countries

14 January 2013

Countries such as Angola and Brazil have become “vital for the prosperity,” of China, which is expected to continue investing in a “determined and deliberate” way in its relationship with the Portuguese-speaking world, says researcher Loro Horta.

In his Masters thesis entitled “Relations between China and the Portuguese-speaking Countries: A Growing but Ignored Relationship,” for the US Naval Postgraduate School, Horta noted that the Portuguese-speaking world has been growing in importance for China in terms of energy security and markets, reaching a “vital” level in the cases of Brazil and Angola.

As such, China will continue to invest in the relationship in a deliberate and determined manner,” said the researcher in his thesis, which he defended in Monterrey, California, in September 2012.

The case of the Portuguese-speaking world, he says, “stands testimony to the growing sophistication of Chinese foreign and economic policy and challenges simplistic explanations of China’s presence in the developing world.”

Trade between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries from January to November rose 9.7 percent year on year to US$117.7 billion, according to official figures published recently by the Chinese customs service.

In the period, China imported goods from the eight Portuguese-speaking countries worth US$80.5 billion (a rise of 11.86 percent) and exported goods worth US$37.1 billion (+5.31 percent).

Brazil remained as China’s main Portuguese-speaking trading partner, and trade between the two countries rose by 0.66 percent to US$78.1 billion against 2011.

Trade between China and Angola rose 37.73 percent in the period to US$34.57 billion, with sales to China of US$30.87 billion, or 36.73 percent more year on year, and Chinese exports to Angola of US$3.7 billion, or 46.72 percent more year on year.

In his study, Horta notes that the relationship with Brazil is now one of the most important for China and that, despite “tension” it is expected to continue to expand based on pragmatism.

In Angola’s case China’s interest is focused on natural resources, particularly oil, and involves close ties with the political elite rather than creating a large number of jobs. However, the success of Chinese business in Cape Verde, a democratic country that lacks resources, is based on an opposite approach.

“Chinese businesses are able to adapt to numerous circumstances and show an often misunderstood sophistication,” says the researcher.

In Mozambique investments are also creating an increasing number of local jobs, following initial resentment and a rise in Labour costs in China.

Portuguese-speaking Africa, he says, demonstrates that Chinese investment goes beyond extracting resources, including tourism, agriculture and banking, “challenging many of the initial prejudices about China in Africa,” because of its diversity.

It is also “evident” in these cases that China “has a long term approach to its relationship with the Portuguese-speaking world and that its diplomats and businesspeople are very patient and persistent.”

Loro Horta is originally from East Timor and a graduate of the University of National Defence of the People’s Liberation Army (China), and he lived in Mozambique for many years. He currently works with several research centres all over the world. (macauhub)