BEIJING: China welcomed Argentina into its global Belt and Road Initiative Sunday as President Xi Jinping capped a weekend of frenetic diplomatic activity on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics.
Xi has not left his country since the coronavirus first emerged in the city of Wuhan, with China now the only major economy still pursuing a strict zero-Covid strategy. But the Beijing Games have allowed Xi to hold a flurry of face-to-face meetings with fellow world leaders for the first time in nearly two years.
On Sunday, state broadcaster CCTV said China and Argentina inked an agreement on “jointly promoting the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, marking Argentina’s entry into the initiative.
China’s BRI is a trillion-dollar push to improve trade links across the globe by building landmark infrastructure, and the inclusion of Argentina is a major win for Beijing in Latin America.
Chinese companies invested more than $20 billion in non-financial direct investment on projects in BRI countries in 2021, according to China’s commerce ministry. The deal came as Argentine President Alberto Fernandez made a three-day visit to China during which both sides also said they would continue to support each other on issues concerning sovereign interests.
The statement backed each other’s territorial claims — the Falkland Islands for Argentina and China’s dispute over Taiwan.
Xi also met with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday, shortly after Pakistan’s army said troops had put an end to four days of assaults by separatists in Balochistan province.
China has invested significantly in the region where separatists have waged an insurgency for years, fuelled by anger that its abundant reserves of natural resources are not relieving citizens from crushing poverty.
During the meeting, Xi stressed that “the Chinese side firmly supports Pakistan in safeguarding its national independence, sovereignty and dignity, as well as in combating terrorism”, according to state media. He added that China is willing to work with Pakistan in “aligning development strategies”. Xi also met with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Singaporean President Halimah Yacob on Sunday.