Study group explores opportunities of the New Silk Road for the Portuguese-speaking countries

The analysis and dissemination of the opportunities offered by the official Chinese initiative of the New Silk Road for the Portuguese-speaking countries is the goal of a study group set up in Lisbon, whose work will begin in 2017.

The Association of Friends of the New Silk Road, officially established in December, brings together personalities from the academic, economic, business and even cultural spheres, and includes as a promoter Fernanda Ilhéu, a researcher at the China Logus Chinese studies centre (Higher Institute of Economics and Management).

“It is an initiative of civil society, people from various areas, with an initial core from the economic area, who are sympathetic to the initiative of China, think that it can be good for China, for developed and developing countries, the world economy and for the relationship of the various peoples,” Ilhéu told Macauhub.

“You have to know the document (One Belt, One Road), the initiative to realize that it is bold, advanced, and long-term. China wants to build it with other countries and organisations that think it is a good project,” she said.

The economic and trade stimulus initiative, announced in 2013 by the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, comprises an infrastructure plan that aims to revive the ancient Silk Road between China and Europe through Central Asia, Africa and South East Asia, and in which the Portuguese port of Sines may become an important hub.

It includes the construction of a high-speed railway network between China and Europe, covering 65 countries and 4.4 billion people, taking advantage of the already established the Silk Road Fund, worth US$40 billion.

The founders of the new Association include figures from the Chinese business community in Portugal such as Choi Man Hin, president of the Association of Luso-Chinese Merchants and Industrialists in Portugal, and Hao Zhang, of the Energias de Portugal (EDP) group, Portuguese entrepreneurs with links to China and Macau, such as Alberto Carvalho Neto, economist Jitendra Tulcidás as well as Hélder Oliveira from the Portugal-Africa Foundation.

The statutes set out the objective of “cooperating pro-actively in the construction of the One Belt, One Road project through knowledge, information and dissemination of valid contributions, either in the presentation of projects or the development of relationships to achieve the objectives of this Chinese Initiative in which Portugal is included.”

Ilhéu said the Association will operate in an “interactive” way, acting as a study group to reflect on the potential of Portugal-China cooperation in various areas related to the One Belt, One Road initiative.

In December 2015 the Macau Association of the Maritime Silk Road (Macau) was created, which aims to study the potential that the Maritime Silk Route has for the relationship between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries using Macau as a platform.

The association also proposes to present China’s capacity to execute large works of infrastructure to the Portuguese-speaking countries, conduct and present studies on major Chinese groups involved in overseas infrastructure construction projects and business opportunities in the industrial and trade sectors and promote cooperation with similar institutions.

The association is chaired by Thomas Chan, a consultant to the governments of China and Hong Kong on the Pearl River Delta and its vice-presidents are José Luís Sales Marques and Gonçalo César de Sá.

Last May the association organised, together with the City University of Macau and the Institute of European Studies of Macau, a seminar on the implications of the One Belt, One Road initiative for the Portuguese-speaking countries. (macauhub)