China-Uruguay ties expected to bear more fruits with comprehensive strategic partnership

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Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Uruguayan President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou in Beijing on Nov. 22, 2023. The two heads of state announced the elevation of bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Uruguayan President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou lays a wreath at the Monument to the People's Heroes on the Tian'anmen Square in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 23, 2023. [Photo: Xinhua]

Embarking on a new starting point, the two countries are expected to carry out increased cooperation and enriched people-to-people exchanges, which will further energize China-Latin America cooperation, as well as cooperation between China and the Southern Common Market (Mercosur).

High-level development in relationship

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Uruguay. Despite the significant geographical distance and different national conditions between the two countries, their bilateral relations have maintained a stable and robust development.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties, the two countries have adhered to mutual respect, equal treatment and win-win cooperation, Xi said during his meeting with Lacalle. Looking forward, Xi expressed his hope to make China-Uruguay relations a model for solidarity and cooperation between countries of different sizes, systems and cultures, better serve the development of the two countries, and improve the well-being of the two peoples.

For his part, Lacalle said that Uruguay-China relations have gone beyond economy and trade, and shown sound multi-dimensional and high-level development momentum.

After the talks, the two heads of state witnessed the signing of the Belt and Road cooperation plan, and bilateral cooperation documents related to such fields as trade and investment, the digital economy, green development, agriculture, health, education, culture, scientific and technological innovation, and customs inspection and quarantine.

In recent years, the two countries have maintained great cooperation within multilateral frameworks such as the United Nations and China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Forum. Meanwhile, Uruguay has joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the New Development Bank, contributing to South-South cooperation and global development.

Fruitful cooperation

During Wednesday's talks, Xi called on the two sides to step up friendly exchanges and cooperation among legislatures, political parties and localities; take the signing of the Belt and Road cooperation plan as an opportunity to enhance the synergy of development strategies; foster new drivers of cooperation on trade in services, the digital economy and clean energy; and push China-Uruguay Belt and Road cooperation to a new stage of high-quality development.

In 2018, Uruguay became the first country in Mercosur to sign a memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with China. Over the past five years, cooperation between the two countries has continuously strengthened within the framework of the BRI.

In 2021, the China Machinery Engineering Corporation won the bid for the project of a 500-kilovolt power transmission and distribution loop network in Uruguay. Crossing five provinces in the northern part of the country, the project will enhance Uruguay's electrical system resilience, enabling it to efficiently manage all renewable energy sources and facilitate their equitable distribution.

The Belt and Road promotes the development of "trade and associated services, logistics and infrastructure," Uruguay's Foreign Minister Omar Paganini said. "We have a lot to develop in the field of technology and electric mobility, so we see the relationship with China as very auspicious," Paganini said.

Common prosperity

Lacalle led a large delegation of cabinet members and economic and trade representatives during his visit to China. Many Uruguayan companies hope to embrace the Chinese market and share development opportunities.

The Latin American country has participated in the China International Import Expo (CIIE) for six consecutive years. At the CIIE this year, a rich variety of commodities in the Uruguayan exhibition area attracted many visitors.

In recent years, the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has been expanding. Uruguayan beef, wine, dairy products and other quality products have entered Chinese people's lives, while Chinese cars, household appliances and daily necessities have also enriched the lives of Uruguayans.

Uruguay's shipments reached an all-time record in 2022 of 13.36 billion U.S. dollars and China was once again its largest market, capturing 28 percent of the total, according to figures from the official Uruguay XXI institute.

China has remained Uruguay's largest trading partner and largest export market for 11 consecutive years. Bilateral trade volume reached 7.44 billion U.S. dollars in 2022, 60 times that of when the two countries established diplomatic ties.

After the establishment of the Uruguay-China strategic partnership in 2016, bilateral trade has witnessed strong growth. In 2022, China's imports from Uruguay reached a new high, which is of great significance to Uruguay, said Paganini.

People-to-people exchange

In recent years, learning Chinese has become increasingly popular in Uruguay. A growing number of Uruguayan schools and institutions are eager to recruit more Chinese teachers to teach the language.

Many students choose to study Chinese culture because of their love for Chinese martial arts, food and movies, and some want to learn more about China through learning about Chinese culture for their work, Carla Rosso, researcher of the Uruguay Section of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, told reporters.

People-to-people exchanges are the foundation of state-to-state exchanges and the key to mutual understanding between peoples of different countries, said Rosso, who obtained a master's degree in Chinese Philosophy and Culture at China's Fudan University.

"The Chinese language and knowledge of the culture were important for my professional development," said Lucia Fajardo, who works in Montevideo at a lumber exporting company that has China as one of its main markets. Fajardo learned Chinese at the Beijing Language and Culture University and got a master's degree at China's Xiamen University.

Guo Mei, the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute at the University of the Republic of Uruguay, said that the institute teaches 350 students every year. In recent years, more and more Uruguayans believe that Chinese is an important language for career development, and an increasing number of people are learning Chinese.

Uruguayan gymnast Victor Rostagno has traveled three times to China's Changsha city to train with Chinese athletes, some of whom have won world championships.

"With the help of our Chinese coaches and athletes, our competitive level has improved a lot," Rostagno said.

He also expects sports exchanges between the two countries to further deepen and increase understanding between the two peoples.

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