Argentina must discern and deftly negotiate for its national interests in the rising, global trading order dominated by China.
BUENOS AIRES — Countries have reacted individually to the spectacular progression of China's global trading plan, colloquially called the "new silk road" but officially titled the "Belt and Road Initiative".
Greece has given its approval by placing the port of Piraeus in the hands of COSCO, China's state shipping firm. It turned the port of Athens into an entry point for supersized container ships arriving from Asia to drop off goods for the European market. Trieste in Italy is becoming a similar gateway to and from central Europe.
Impoverished Africa is receiving Chinese investments with glee. India wants to make a deal that will not subordinate it to China and that will keep options open with the United States. The four-year Trump presidency alienated the United States from its allies and left a gap that communist China has filled without hesitation. President Joe Biden's new administration is expected to handle the two countries' ties more rationally, which will allow trading pacts instead of spats, despite their enduring and logical rivalries.
In Latin America, governments of differing political hues — such as Peru, Chile and Cuba — view the Belt and Road Initiative as an opportunity.
In Latin America, governments of differing political hues view the Belt and Road Initiative as an opportunity.
To analyze Argentina's present and future relationship with the People's Republic, we need to understand what it wants from us and above all, what we want from China. Understanding a superpower's objectives can be a complex task, requiring time, specialized knowledge and absence of ideological preconceptions for or against it.
From that perspective, the government's decision to remove our ambassador in Beijing (Luis María Kreckler) last December was bad news. In inter-state relations, it is important not to fall in love with the host country, as passion can blind rationality. As one of our presidents, Arturo Illia, observed in the 1960s, saying "offer" instead of "sell" does nothing to enhance the reality of a situation. A succession of Chinese leaders from Mao to Deng Xiaoping has built a centralized economic system that has yielded exponential growth using a mix of free-market, guided capitalism and efficient state-sector firms.
For over a decade now, GDP growth, farming reforms, an emergent middle class and enterprising capitalists and financiers have all helped the current president, Xi Jinping, and his team to build towards the Belt and Road Initiative.
With an enormous financial outlay, China has created firms (private, public and mixed) designed to operate key ports and participate in building road and energy infrastructures around the world.
Agreeing on the terms of exchange is of crucial importance.
The expansion and, where possible, control of a significant part of the world's trade have been objectives of several historical powers like Great Britain, Spain, Portugal or the United States. The Asiatic superpower wants the same thing today.
For us, as in other times in our history, agreeing on the terms of exchange is of crucial importance. As an example: The world's great powers (China, the United States and the European Union) will want our lithium. We should seek agreements to make electrical batteries and vehicles here, to benefit our workforce and national firms. The French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte warned that "the world will tremble when China awakes." Fortunately, the conflict China will provoke is merely commercial, though still of the utmost importance. As always, we are the ones who must decide what is in the best interests of our nation.