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Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa applaud after signing agreements Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa applaud after the signing of agreements between the two countries, in Queluz, Portugal, Dec. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Armando Franca).

How Long Can Portugal Continue to Play Both Sides of the U.S.-China Rivalry?

Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020

Jutting into the Atlantic Ocean 65 miles south of Lisbon, Portugal’s Sines peninsula has long been recognized by foreign powers for its geostrategic importance. The Romans, Visigoths and Moors all established settlements alongside the natural deepwater port. Today, however, plans to redevelop the port have become the latest source of friction between the U.S. and China, suggesting that Portugal’s diplomatic strategy of courting both rivals is running out of runway.

Sines is the closest port in mainland Europe to America’s eastern shale basins. U.S. firms want to expand the port’s liquid natural gas terminal in order to increase gas exports to the continent, which would also help reduce the European Union’s energy dependence on Russia. In 2018, George Glass, the U.S. ambassador to Portugal, said that the proposed American investment in Sines would convert Portugal into “the Singapore of Western Europe.” ...

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