How long have you been in Guangzhou? Could you share some interesting experiences you have had in Guangzhou?
I have arrived in Guangzhou 2 and a half years ago. It has been a change in my life, as I have never considered China for a posting. Besides the common lost in translation that I guess all foreigners feel, I have had a few curious experiences. One was a beggar with a mobile phone, asking for money through WeChat; a woman I know quit her job because her boss put traps for cockroaches, “but the Buddha does not allow it as they are also creatures of nature”; taking the underground at rush hour, in particular when there is no line to get in; eating scorpio soup.
As the first Portugal Consul General in Guangzhou, you have witnessed the opening of the Portuguese Consulate in Guangzhou in October 2018. How did you feel at that time?
It was a deep honor to be entrusted by my authorities to open a Consulate General in Guangzhou. Opening diplomatic missions is not a common thing and I have been given the chance to open one. It challenges you a lot. Immediately after arrival you realize that you are totally alone among 20 million people (the double of Portugal) and you have a task to complete, which means you will have to adapt, to accomodate and improvise a lot.
2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Portugal. What kind of initiatives has your Consulate taken in the past year to promote cultural and educational exchanges and deepen mutual understanding between China and Portugal?
We have organized a concert, an eloquence contest and started to interchange with the Universities. Due to the fact that we only opened one year ago, it was not possible to develop a concrete project, but we are working on it. We have realized that Portuguese language is much less developed in Guangzhou than in other cities in China, therefore there is work to be done, after all Portuguese language is the 5th spoken language and the most spoken language in Southern hemisphere.
In the past decade, the cooperation between China and Portugal has yielded fruitful results in different areas. We have seen the various potentials for future cooperation. Would you like to introduce the achievements of bilateral trade cooperation in the Greater Bay Area so far?
Our trade balance with China is very negative, so both countries are willing to change the situation. I have found out that there are a lot of misperceptions about China in Portugal and some misunderstandings as well and the Great Bay Area, although we have been the first westerners to reach it, is unknown for Portugal. To change this it will require a lot of commitment and work, but we are here for it. We have an old history with Macau, therefore it is natural that our stronger relations within the Great Bay Area remain with Macau. However, the relations with China cannot end in Macau.
Last year, Portugal became the first Western European country to sign the Memorandum of Understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative with China. What kind of role do you think the Consulate General of Portugal in Guangzhou will play in the in-depth cooperation between China and Portugal?
The Memorandum includes many areas of possible cooperation. We are here to make proposals to Portugal based on proposals that the Chinese authorities may want to suggest. We have asked them for proposals and we are waiting. I would say that the maritime silk route and the maritime activities should constitute one of the major areas of cooperation.