Former governor of Macau highlights Portugal’s historic ties with China
Portugal can play a key role in improving relations between the European Union and China thanks to its “historical ties” to the Asian country.
So said Vasco Rocha Vieira, the last governor of Macau during Portuguese rule, after receiving an honorary doctorate from the Macau University of Science and Technology on Monday.
Rocha Vieira said that Portugal’s presence in the territory had given it “privileged knowledge” of China, which he said can “influence destinies, give opinions and advise” the EU in its relations with the country.
The last governor of Macau (between 1991-1999), who is a retired army general, stressed that China is “a superpower in the making” and that Portugal can “contribute to respect, progress and peace” in a world marked by “very great instability”.
On March 1, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Lusa news agency that it maintains friendly, long-term and “mutually beneficial” ties with Portugal, “in line with the interests of both sides.”
The response came after Portugal’s minister of foreign affairs, João Gomes Cravinho, said that Portugal would have to “review the meaning of the political and economic relationship” with China if it provided military support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rocha Vieira’s honorary doctorate from the Macau university was awarded in April 2022, but has only now been handed over due to the restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that “another great asset” for Portugal is the growing interest in China in the Portuguese language, noting the growing number of Chinese universities that are teaching it.
Around 50 higher education institutions in China offered Portuguese language courses at the end of 2020, the coordinator of the Pedagogical and Scientific Centre for the Portuguese Language at Macau Polytechnic University, Gaspar Zhang Yunfeng, told Lusa at the time.
Rocha Vieira commented: “China is interested in Portuguese being developed … also to be able to have, via Portugal, a closer relationship with Portuguese-speaking countries.”
The general, who is also a trustee of the charitable foundation that oversees the Macau Portuguese School (EPM), called for “more interest” on the part of Portugal’s government and more dialogue with the EPM, as “the most important Portuguese institution” in Macau.
On February 23, the chair of the EPM board, Manuel Machado, lamented “a situation of exhaustion” among staff and stressed that the school “cannot continue to grow, under penalty of reducing the quality of its educational service if conditions are not met.”
In a meeting with the new consul-general of Portugal in Macau and Hong Kong, Alexandre Leitão, the EPM chair stressed “the need to increase facilities, to improve equipment that is ageing and also to improve existing facilities” at the school.