Wisest stand for Argentina is not to take sides in China-US competition: Argentine scholar
Published: Dec 14, 2023 09:03 PM
The view of Buenos Aires and Beijing Photos: VCG

The view of Buenos Aires and Beijing Photos: VCG

Editor's Note:

Different from his harsh remarks made during the presidential campaign, Argentine President Javier Milei emphasized on Monday that the new government of Argentina attaches high importance to its relations with China. How will China-Argentina relations develop under Milei's leadership? What's Argentina's role between China and the US? Jorge Malena (Malena), director of the postgraduate program on China Studies at the Catholic University of Argentina, shared his views with Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Zixuan, as well as his expectations for China-Argentina relations.

GT: Milei highlighted the "shock adjustment" in the economy during his inaugural speech. According to Argentine media La Nación on Tuesday, Milei had sent a letter to the Chinese side requesting continued financial support from China. What does this mean for China-Argentina relations? 

Malena: The concept of economic reforms in President Milei's words was not aimed at changing the nature of Argentina's relations with China, but rather the domestic economy. Accordingly, I don't foresee any intention to decouple from China, a country that has become one of Argentina's top three trade partners, foreign investors, lenders, technology transfer and infrastructure builders.

GT: In a recent interview, you mentioned that "BRICS+ provides a new platform for South-South cooperation" and "helps to cope with the current problems facing the global economy." Why do you support BRICS, and what's your view on the attitude of the Milei administration toward BRICS?

Malena: The current Argentine government has relaunched its bid to become a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an interest that dates back to 2016 when Mauricio Macri was the president. This bid was disregarded by the Alberto Fernández administration, which instead opted to become a BRICS member. Therefore, there is a clear difference in terms of the strategic positioning of the current Argentine government compared with the previous one.

GT: Many Western media outlets have said that Argentina-China relations will not be as good as before, and Milei's trip to the US days after Argentina's presidential election signaled a realignment of Argentina's foreign policy toward the US. What's your take on this? Why do these Western media outlets tend to stress the negative side of China-Argentine relations? How do you think the new government will position its relations with China? 

Malena: The new strategic positioning of the Milei government has apparently led the Western media to expect a change in China-Argentina relations. Perhaps they hope to see something happening in Argentina similar to what has happened in Italy (a country closely linked to Argentina in cultural terms), where the Meloni administration pulled out of the BRI.

However, right after the election was won, there were positive signals from the elected Argentine government with regard to China: Diana Mondino, Argentina's new foreign minister, met the Chinese Ambassador to Buenos Aires; and then Chinese President Xi Jinping's congratulatory letter to Milei was replied to in cordial terms. Therefore, it would seem that the new government of Argentina is not embracing a change of attitude toward China.

GT: After hitting out at BRICS countries such as China and Brazil during the campaign, Milei recently sought to repair ties with these countries and showed a softer tone when talking about foreign policy. How could this softened tone be interpreted? What role will Argentina play in China-US relations?

Malena: It seems that President Milei, now that he's starting his mandate as head of state, has adopted a key teaching of political theory: "Politics is one thing when you seek power, and politics is another thing when you have achieved power." And, as I have stated several times in the past, the wisest stand for Argentina, in terms of foreign policy positioning, is not to take sides in the China-US competition, as my country has historically been autonomous and non-aligned. We need sound relations with both major powers because they are important for many reasons, including their export markets, financing sources and technology providers.