Spotlight: Portugal emerging as bridge between China, Lusophone countries

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-04 23:10:19|Editor: yan
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LISBON, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- After acquiring significant stakes in key Portuguese companies, Fosun, a Chinese privately owned multinational corporation, has found a much bigger market than the southwestern European country with a population of around 10 million.

Fosun established a foothold in this part of Western Europe in 2014 by taking over Portugal's leading insurer, Fidelidade, which then bought a big healthcare provider now known as Luz Saude. Later, Fosun further expanded its portfolio with a 27-percent share in Millennium BCP, a major Portuguese bank.

That enables Fosun to create synergy between three interrelated businesses as well as a gateway to a wider market -- the Lusophone countries. Portuguese, one of the world's major languages, is also widely spoken in countries such as Brazil, Angola and Mozambique.

This year, Fosun bought Brazil's institutional brokerage and wealth management firm Guide Investimentos, after the 2016 purchase of asset management company Rio Bravo.

The Brazilian deals were facilitated by its experience gained in Portugal, the company said, adding that it has a "Portugal-centered" strategy to expand to other Portuguese-speaking regions.


Fosun's example illustrates Portugal's emerging role as a bridge between China and Lusophone countries, experts said.

"Chinese FDI (foreign direct investment) in Portugal has already facilitated access to third countries, namely in the Portuguese-speaking world," said Carlos Rodrigues, head of the Department of Social, Political and Territorial Sciences at the University of Aveiro.

Thanks to its knowledge about and strong ties with Africa, Portugal can make joint efforts with China "directed at generating opportunities in third countries," said Rodrigues.

Virginia Trigo, a professor emeritus and director of China Programs at the University Institute of Lisbon, said "trilateral cooperation" is potentially beneficial: Portugal has historical links and knowledge about Africa and Brazil, hence a role in establishing partnerships.

"The potential is enormous from the development of infrastructure, energy, water and sewage systems, to the development of projects of agro-industry, to education, health and other services," said Fernanda Ilheu, president of the New Silk Road Friends Association, a Lisbon-based non-profit think tank.

Portugal and China, along with other Portuguese-speaking countries, should work together to find the projects that can contribute to the development of those countries, said Ilheu. "I would like to recommend the creation of task forces with government representatives, companies and academics."

In addition to economic interests, Rodrigues said he believes that such trilateral cooperation is also consistent with Portugal's foreign policy.

A multilateral framework, "according to the official view, can help to reinforce Portugal's role in the international arena, particularly concerning Africa," he said.


The experts said they are happy to see more Chinese take interest in the Portuguese language.

"If you take into consideration our size, we are small. But the Portuguese-speaking countries, they are very important," said Paulo Duarte, a researcher and lecturer at the University of Minho.

"When I went to visit some cities in 2017 in China, like Hangzhou and other places. I was surprised. Very good surprise for me because I learned that there are students in China learning Portuguese and they're quite fluent," Duarte said.

"I believe that it might be important to enlarge the scope of the destination countries and consider Portugal as one" for the numerous Chinese students who wish to study abroad, said Trigo.

"In Portugal many university programs are taught in English besides Portuguese and it would be an opportunity for Chinese students to learn Portuguese -- if they so wish -- since it is a very important language in the world context," Trigo said.