China and the Portuguese-speaking countries were linked in 2018 by a number of new ventures, and the process of getting closer continues in the new year under the New Silk Road.
One symbol of the ever closer and more intense ties between China and Portuguese-speaking countries is the Catembe Bridge, inaugurated in November 2018 by Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi, a US$725 million, China-funded project.
The project, which includes the road link between the south bank of Maputo Bay and Ponta do Ouro on the border with South Africa, is on the list of the 70 largest bridges worldwide and is considered the largest suspension bridge in Africa.
During the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in September in Beijing, Filipe Nyusi met with President Xi Jinping, who told him that “China strongly supports Mozambique in choosing a path of development.”
Angolan President João Lourenço also met with Xi Jinping during FOCAC, and was given assurances of support for the diversification of the country’s economy.
Lourenço returned to Beijing in October to negotiate concrete financial support, which he himself would estimate at US$6 billion “from various sources.”
In a recent interview with Portuguese weekly Expresso, the Angolan president said that “the owner of the money always has the right to impose conditions” on the country to which it lends, and also that the new government is “taking steps to, from now on avoid taking on oil-backed debts,” and is renegotiating existing contracts of that kind.
Cabo Verde (Cape Verde) was also represented at a high level in FOCAC 2018, with the objective of obtaining funding for the creation of the Special Economic Maritime Zone (ZEEM) of São Vicente, and a national congress centre, among other projects.
While Cabo Verde is positioning itself for the New Silk Road, last year Portugal also took an important step towards being part of this Chinese strategy by signing a bilateral memorandum of understanding during a visit to Portugal by Xi Jinping in December.
In the document, which welcomes and supports the New Silk Road, Portugal and China state their willingness to “promote global connectivity in sectors of common interest in a harmonious, balanced and respectful manner.”
The two countries establish cooperation in seven main areas, the first of which is political coordination, and the second is air, land and sea transport, logistics and port infrastructure, “taking into account the role the Port of Sines and other ports can have in the implementation of the New Silk Road, given their privileged geographical position.”
The statement is in line with Portugal’s desire to give the port of Sines an important role in China’s strategy.
Last year was one of recovery in the value of trade between China and the Portuguese-speaking countries, which reached US$108.928 billion between January and September, 21.22% more than in the same period of 2017.
Trade with Brazil accounted for the largest share, at US$81.7 billion.
In 2018, products from Portuguese-speaking countries had a record exhibition area in the Exhibition of Products and Services from Portuguese-Speaking Countries (Macau), or PLPEX 2018, in Macau, which was increased to 6,000 square metres.
PLPEX 2018 had, for the first time, an area reserved for renowned Brazilian products and another for a contact meeting on wines and foodstuffs from the Portuguese-speaking countries, in order to promote Macau’s role as a Services Platform for Trade Cooperation between China and the Portuguese-Speaking Countries.