Chilean President Gabriel Boric is set to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Sunday for talks that will likely fortify ties between the two nations, although Boric faces domestic pressure to address human rights issues in China.
In his first visit to China since being elected in 2021, Boric is expected to enhance cooperation with Chinese provincial governments and expand relations to second-tier cities such as Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Chengdu, where he will deliver a lecture at Sichuan University.
Chile was the first Latin American nation to establish a consulate in the region, in 2021, seeking to foster exchanges in investment, trade and culture.
Boric’s delegation also expects to advance several projects abandoned during the pandemic, including the so-called Asia-South America Digital Door, which would connect the Chilean city of Valparaiso to Shanghai through a series of transpacific submarine fibre-optic cables.
Francisco Urdinez, an expert on Sino-Chilean relations at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, said Boric had a keen interest in luring investment in the renewable energy domain.
Chile boasts roughly 48 per cent of global lithium reserves, primarily located in the Salar de Atacama, a vast salt flat in the nation’s north. The mineral is vital to the production of batteries for electric vehicles.
“Lithium mining is crucial for the energy transition, and China is a world leader in this sector. The visit represents a valuable opportunity for Chile,” said Urdinez.
The mineral is key for diversifying Chile’s export mix. While 40 per cent of Chile’s exports in 2022 were to China, a significant portion were low-value-added commodities. Santiago seeks a shift in this trend and has suggested that Chinese investors establish operations in Chile to purify the mineral.
China has a joint venture in the sector with Sichuan-based Tianqi and Chile’s SQM, the premier lithium producer globally. However, the alliance has stirred controversy.
Source : Scmp