Cautious optimism for maintaining stability in China-Argentina ties could be anticipated
Published: Dec 10, 2023 09:21 PM
Illustration: Chen Xia/ GT

Illustration: Chen Xia/ GT

After one of the most anticipated elections in Latin America, Javier Milei will be sworn in as the new Argentine president on Sunday. During his electoral campaign, Milei was known for delivering strong speeches with controversial proposals, which garnered support from voters and played a crucial role in his election. Now, supporters and critics eagerly anticipate the progress of governmental transformations and other policies that will likely have effects within the country and, quite possibly, in the Latin American region.

One of the highly contested subjects throughout his campaign discourse was the future of the country's ties with China. However, China-Argentina relations will not be hindered in the coming years. This judgment is based on the following facts:

First, the bilateral relations have been highly institutionalized. Argentina and China have maintained a comprehensive strategic relationship since 2014, bringing mutual benefits through exchanges at various levels, cooperation and shared interests. This leads us to ponder: How much will the relationship between the two countries change with Milei as president?

The scope for the changes proposed by Milei during the campaign is limited, as the relations between China and Argentina fall within an institutional framework that ensures its stability. Additionally, the government coalition has limited representation in Congress, making it challenging to enact the proposed changes. 

Second, economic cooperation between the two sides is fruitful. China is currently Argentina's second-largest trading partner and the primary destination for its agricultural exports, a dynamic facilitated by the complementarity of the economies and a key factor in understanding this phenomenon. This economic interdependence extends beyond mere trade volume, highlighting the shared interests that define the dynamic and collaborative economic relationship between the two nations.

Since 2022, Argentina has surpassed Brazil as the main recipient of Chinese investments in Latin America - a shift which coincides with Argentina's adhesion to the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). 

China's investments in Argentina range from technology to energy transition, medical, mining, food, strategic infrastructure, and even space cooperation. These efforts have resulted in favorable changes in the country's industrial and productive landscape. Furthermore, China has positively strengthened and enhanced local workforce capabilities by facilitating the transfer of knowledge and increasing competitiveness.

Third, China's relations with any country, including Argentina, are not based on ideology but on win-win cooperation. Given Argentina's current internal conditions and challenges, it is expected that the entire government will adopt a pragmatic decision-making approach, with a commitment to make realistic decisions. This pragmatic approach represents a prioritization of practical solutions and responsiveness to the country's complex realities and pressing short-term challenges, allowing more adaptable and flexible alternatives in the socio-political and economic landscape.

Finally, Milei's stance and discourse on China are changing. That is to say, he has softened his words about bilateral relations since his election, providing greater stability and confidence regarding the future of the relations. 

The relations between Argentina and China are sure to undergo changes during the Milei era, just as his rhetoric and perspectives toward Beijing had evolved after the campaign. As a result, cautious optimism could be anticipated amid a changing political landscape, with exchanges maintaining a trend of relative stability in economic and commercial ties.

The author is a researcher in the Global Studies program at Shanghai University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn