2013-04-22 by Kenneth Maxwell
Two frigates and a supply ship of the 13th naval force of the Chinese Navy, commended by vice-admiral Li Xiaoyan, entered the Tagus river on April 15, 2013 for a visit to Lisbon.
2013 marks the 500 anniversary of the arrival of the first Portuguese, Jorge Alvares, at the Peal River in China.
The Chinese naval vessels had just spent 4 months in the Indian Ocean as part of the task force combating Somali pirates. They had then visited Malta, Algeria, Morocco, before Portugal, and are on their way to France.
The Chinese embassy in Lisbon said that the 500th anniversary of Jorge Alvares visit to China was “only a coincidence.”
But China and Portugal have enjoyed cordial relations since the return of Macau to China in 1999. Macau has been at pains to preserve its Portuguese heritage, if only for Chinese tourists to see on their way to Macau`s booming casinos. Portugal now exports more to China than to Brazil.
The President of Portugal, Anibal Cavaco Silva, is in South America this week on a visit to Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Ollanta Humala of Peru. Cavaco Silva has taken with him a delegation of 50 business people and is seeking to encourage trade and investment.
Colombia in particular is capitalizing on its nascent stability and prosperity and its turning its attention to the Pacific. Trade with China accounts for 42% of Colombia`s exports and India 17%. Colombia is the only South American county with access to the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans.
Brazil having effectively opposed the US idea for a Free Trade Area of the Americas, has now jumped on the bandwagon of the proposed free trade area between the US and the European Union, hoping to revive the stalled efforts with the EU by preparing concessions.
But the obstacle of European farm subsidies remains, and any EU-US free trade deal will also be highly contentious in the US Congress.
It is ironic that had the Ming dynasty persisted in the overseas voyages of Zheng He in the Indian Ocean in 1433, which apparently reached Malinda on the east African Coast, shortly before Gil Eanes passed Cape Bojador on the western side of the Africa.
Chinese Junks and Portuguese Caravels might have met at the Cape of Good Hope before the end of the 15th century.