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China-Argentina Relations May Be Strained by Snub, but Brics Remains Unaffected

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Milei – whose letter to Brics leaders in December said the moment was not “opportune” for Argentina to join as a full member – is seemingly fulfilling his pledge to ditch Fernandez’s efforts to seek closer ties with developing economies.

Javier Milei (centre) said in a letter to Brics leaders that the moment was not “opportune” for Argentina to join as a full member. Photo: Reuters

According to Josef Gregory Mahoney, a politics and international relations professor at East China Normal University in Shanghai, Beijing had anticipated that Argentina would join Brics, so its withdrawal was “a source of some embarrassment”.

But he said it would be Argentina that lost out over the decision.

Argentina, which is facing a deepening economic crisis, was among six countries invited in August to join Brics – made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – to form an 11-nation bloc. Fernandez had endorsed joining the alliance as an opportunity to reach new markets.

“I wouldn’t really describe Argentina’s decision as a setback for Brics or China – it’s a setback for Argentina,” Mahoney said.

He added that Beijing had been eager to grow the bloc “in ways that balance different regional interests without alienating current members”, given that some were “less enthusiastic about expansion”.

“Given the poor state of the Argentine economy and the damage that’s being done to it by Milei’s economic policies, his withdrawal is a blessing in disguise for the other Brics members – they’ve dodged a bullet,” Mahoney said, adding that the radical libertarian was pursuing “shock therapy policies” such as a move to slash the value of the Argentine peso by over 50 per cent against the US dollar.

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According to Zhang Chi, associate lecturer of international relations at the University of St Andrews, Milei’s decision on Brics reflects a broader concern among developing countries being pressured to choose between the US-led world order and alternative systems.

“In the short term, Argentina’s decision to pivot towards the West and align with the US, despite receiving goodwill from Chinese President Xi Jinping, may lead to a decrease in diplomatic and economic engagement with China,” Zhang said.

In November, Xi sent a congratulatory message to Milei on his election, saying he was ready to work with the new leader to “continue the China-Argentina friendship, help the development and revitalisation of our respective countries through win-win cooperation, and promote steady and far-reaching development of China-Argentina relations”.

“In the long term, if other Latin American countries follow Argentina’s lead in re-evaluating their involvement in Brics, where China plays a major role, it could potentially weaken the bloc’s regional economic influence and undermine China’s growing influence in Latin America,” Zhang said.

“China has emerged as South America’s foremost trading partner, wielding substantial influence through extensive foreign direct investments and lending, particularly in energy and infrastructure sectors via the belt and road,” she said, noting that 21 South American nations had joined the initiative.

Those links have worried Washington, while for Milei it has become imperative to “convey a more pronounced alignment with the US, particularly following his recent meetings with US officials”, according to Zhang.

“This shift signifies a deliberate departure from prior policies and a renewed emphasis on aligning with the US while taking a more assertive stance against China,” she added.

Mahoney likened Milei’s style to that of former US president Donald Trump, especially his stated goal of strengthening bilateral ties with nations without going through international organisations like Brics.

“Milei is a right-leaning populist who ran against the previous government’s policies, which had pursued Brics members, and he also used Trump-style dog whistle tactics to demonise the Chinese government,” said Mahoney, adding that his election victory “surprised pundits”.

Mahoney said Milei, like Trump, used “radical, populist messaging to appeal to deeply frustrated, polarised electorates who are fed up and willing to try something new”.

Argentina’s Milei warns of ‘shock’ austerity as he takes office

Xu Qinduo, a political analyst at the Chinese think tank Pangoal Institution, argued that had Argentina joined Brics it might have made the bloc more attractive to other Latin American countries.

“Argentina is the second-largest economy in [South America] and remains a major agricultural power, despite its chronic economic crisis,” Xu said. “Having it join Brics would make it more influential as a bloc of emerging economies and perhaps more representative of the Global South.”

Xu said some Latin American countries were concerned about being seen as “anti-West” by taking part in Brics, while others were focused on economic opportunities. Members benefit from loans from the New Development Bank established by Brics in 2014, and from more access to regional economies.

Despite rejecting Brics and attempting to “demonstrate his loyalty to Washington”, Xu said Milei was open to developing trade and investment ties in other ways.

“There are reasons for Argentina to maintain trade ties with the Brics countries,” Xu said. “Brazil, China and India are among its top five trading partners.”

(The following story may or may not have been edited by NEUSCORP.COM and was generated automatically from a Syndicated Feed. NEUSCORP.COM also bears no responsibility or liability for the content.)

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