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Olympic diplomatic blitz targets Argentina for China’s Belt and Road

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Beijing (AFP) – China welcomed Argentina to its global Belt and Road Initiative on Sunday as President Xi Jinping wrapped up a weekend of frantic diplomatic activity on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics.

Xi has not left his country since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the city of Wuhan, with China now the only major economy to pursue a strict zero-Covid strategy.

But the Beijing Games allowed Xi to hold a series of face-to-face meetings with other world leaders for the first time in nearly two years.

On Sunday, state broadcaster CCTV reported that China and Argentina had signed an agreement on “the joint promotion of the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road”. “, marking the entry of Argentina into the initiative.

China’s BRI is a trillion-dollar push to improve trade ties across the world by building historic infrastructure, and Argentina’s inclusion is a major victory for Beijing in Latin America.

Chinese companies invested more than $20 billion in non-financial direct investment in projects in BRI countries in 2021, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce.

The agreement came as Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez was on a three-day visit to China during which the two sides also said they would continue to support each other on issues concerning sovereign interests.

Xi also met Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday, shortly after the Pakistani military said troops had ended four days of assaults by separatists in Balochistan province.

China has invested significantly in the region where separatists have waged an insurgency for years, fueled by anger that its abundant reserves of natural resources are not relieving citizens of 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 the fight against terrorism,” according to state media. State.

He added that China is willing to work with Pakistan to “align development strategies”.

Xi also met with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Singaporean President Halimah Yacob on Sunday.

His most important encounter came on Friday when Xi spoke with Russia’s Vladimir Putin just before the opening ceremony of the Olympics.