The growing close relationship between Argentina and the People’s Republic of China over the Falkland Islands poses a challenge to the UK’s support for self-determination for the islanders and their desire to maintain their British status. China’s diplomatic position in support of Argentina’s territorial claim to the Falkland Islands has strengthened, especially in multilateral forums, in parallel with the intensification of economic and political relations between China and Argentina.
Argentine claims over the Falkland Islands sparked a diplomatic dispute between the UK and China in February 2022, when Liz Truss, the UK Foreign Secretary at the time, responded to a joint statement by Alberto Fernandez and Xi Jinping, President of Argentina and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, respectively. In this joint statement, Xi Jinping reiterated China’s support for Argentina’s demand for full sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.
This confrontation is based on two conflicting principles: the principle of self-determination supported by the United Nations Charter on the one hand, and the concept of historical self-determination promoted by Argentina and China on the other hand. China also receives support from Argentina for its position on Taiwan through the same principle. However, China’s increasing involvement in the Falkland Islands issue presents deeper challenges to British foreign policy and its position on the issue.
One challenge is the ability of China, through its networks of influence such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and perhaps the BRICS, to obtain more support in developing countries. Colonial perspective and application of this approach to the Falkland Islands. Although this Chinese push is not new, China’s growing political and economic influence gives it greater weight.
It is possible that China will seek more support for Argentina’s position at the United Nations, especially through the UN Special Committee on Decolonization, of which it is a member. The People’s Republic of China has made calls for “decolonization” of the Falkland Islands and, in cooperation with the Group of 77, has put pressure on the United Kingdom to begin negotiations on sovereignty.
The recent dispute with the European Union over the inclusion of the Argentine term “Las Malvinas” alongside the Malvinas Islands in the EU-CLAC Summit Declaration has highlighted and revived debate on the necessity of negotiations between Argentina and the United Kingdom.
To meet this challenge, British analysts believe that the United Kingdom should consider broader foreign policy strategies rather than focusing solely on the issue of self-determination. “It must recognize the role played by the Falkland Islands in Argentine nationalism and China’s willingness to use this role to its advantage,” the document said. They recommended that “the UK should also seek greater support for its position in the Falkland Islands.”
This will require a comprehensive approach to foreign policy, as British analysts reveal the importance of US engagement in confronting China’s geo-economic influence in South America. Furthermore, political uncertainty in Argentina surrounding the 2023 presidential elections could provide an opportunity for direct dialogue between the UK and Argentina.
You may be interested in: International support to Argentina on the Malvinas Islands issue