Dong Jun / SHINE
Luciano Tanto Clement, the Consul General of the Argentine Republic in Shanghai, has an interesting anecdote about the figurative ties between the city and his South American nation.
“For example, if you go to People’s Square and start digging a deep enough hole in the ground, you will arrive in Argentina. It is well known to my compatriots,” he said.
Although he works in a city farthest from his hometown of Salta City, Tanto Clement says the distance hasn’t affected him.
Reflecting on half a century of Argentina and China walking hand in hand, he said the ties between the two countries existed even before 50 years, and “as far as I can see, we are not that far that a map informs us.”
Tanto Clement first visited Shanghai in 2013. Impressed as he was then, the Argentinian said the city was more imposing when he returned as consul general because “it was totally different from eight years ago”.
“They say you can be impressed the first time you come to China, but it’s even more so on the second visit because you can make the comparison. And that explains my feelings for Shanghai.”
In the interview with Shanghai Daily, the CG shared his views on the China-Argentina friendship and the ties between Argentina and Shanghai. He described President Alberto Angel Fernandez’s first trip to China in early February as a great success, and Shanghai as one of the windows of the world, the gateway to China.
SD: What is your view on China-Argentina relations over the past 50 years, and what do you think are the next steps for bilateral relations?
CG: The upcoming 50th anniversary of China-Argentina diplomatic relations is a great opportunity to reflect on what brings us together in the first place.
Historically, the leaders of the two countries forged a relationship that predates formal diplomatic relations. Former President (Juan Domingo) Peron wrote a letter to Chairman Mao in the 1960s. The two countries shared a common worldview from the beginning of their diplomatic history and both participated in the Non-Aligned Movement. So the link was already there.
A turning point in our bilateral relations came in 2004, when the two countries agreed to launch a “strategic partnership”. After that, our political and economic ties grew much stronger. Ten years later, when we evolved our relationship into a “comprehensive strategic partnership“, the aim was to diversify the areas of cooperation and deepen our understanding. And now President Fernandez’s visit can be seen as a natural development of these recent events and logic.
We look forward to the easing of (pandemic) travel restrictions so that we can shrink the map even further through people-to-people trading.
SD: During President Fernandez’s visit to China, Argentina and China jointly announced the creation of a football school. Could you tell us more?
CG: It’s part of a project, the Argentina-China International Football Academy. It will be developed in Yulin, Shaanxi Province, and will include the construction of football pitches and all necessary accommodation facilities for teachers and players.
Teachers include amateur and professional coaches who enjoy working with children. I believe bringing in Argentines to guide the way we run football, our way of thinking and the way we teach our children is more important than having a place to play. Because we understand that introducing sport at a young age is essential.
In fact, we usually cooperate with the Argentine Football Fans Association of China, especially since the death of football icon (Diego) Maradona. President Xi can be seen as one of China’s Maradona fans.
SD: You started your diplomatic career in 2000 and came to Shanghai last year. How did you feel when you first arrived here?
CG: I was appointed Consul General last August. But I had been here during a 2013 visit by the then Argentine foreign minister. I worked directly for his office at the time. We participated in the 15th Shanghai Art Festival, held at Jing’an Kerry Center.
The first time you visit Shanghai you are impressed, but even more so on your second visit. For example, in 2013, there was no Shanghai Tower!
SD: How many Argentines live in Shanghai? What work do they do?
CG: Last year there were around 200, which was significantly higher before the pandemic and all the travel restrictions that followed.
They perform a wide range of activities, such as entrepreneurs and representatives of Argentine companies, academics and teachers, artists and dancers.
SD: What aspects of Argentine culture and soft power would you highlight in particular?
CG: Football, movies, tango, five Nobel laureates, world-class writers like Jorge Luis Borges, top universities in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking world…and, more generally, Argentinian beef, gaucho culture and untouched natural landscapes.
We are one of the largest food exporters in the world and Argentina is South America’s number one destination for international tourists.
SD: What were your personal impressions of the China International Import Expo last year?
CG: Argentina is always eager to participate in such events. For us, this is a key pillar of our strategy to reach the Chinese market.
Last year, Argentina participated in the CIIE with a 400 square meter booth in the Food and Beverage Pavilion, where 30 Argentine companies displayed a diverse range of products, including wine, seafood, sea, oil and lemons. But we want to change it. We do not only want to be an exporter of foodstuffs, but also an exporter of high technology in key areas: satellites, nuclear reactors and agrotechnology.