China congratulated Javier Milei for winning the presidential election in Argentina, even after he questioned the need to trade with the Asian nation that he described as an “assassin.”
“We congratulate Argentina on its presidential election and congratulate Mr. Milei on his election,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular press briefing in Beijing on Monday.
“China values its relations with Argentina and we are ready to work with Argentina to continue nurturing our friendship and contribute to each other’s development,” she added.
After an unexpected primary victory in August, Milei said he’d freeze relations with China. The outsider candidate said at the time that “people are not free in China, they can’t do what they want and when they do it, they get killed.” He added: “Would you trade with an assassin?”
Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s ruling Communist Party typically silences dissidents with lengthy prison sentences and has been accused of detaining more than one million mostly Uyghurs in camps in its Xinjiang region. The United States has dubbed that campaign a genocide, while Beijing calls the facilities vocational training centers.
China has also been accused of kidnapping a handful of people from overseas territories including Thailand, but unlike Russia has not faced credible accusations of assassinations.
Milei later clarified he’d leave it to the private sector to decide whether to maintain commercial ties with China, and other countries with leaders that he dislikes.
The libertarian outsider won Argentina’s Presidency on Sunday by promising a radical shake-up to fix decades of policy mismanagement, a strategy that has resonated with a populace suffering under a nosediving economy and one of the world’s fastest inflation rates.
Argentina’s total trade with China and Brazil — another nation he said he’d freeze relations with — was worth some US$55 billion last year, almost three times the value of commerce with the United States, its number three trading partner.