Portuguese leaders have criticised U.S. ambassador George Glass after he said they must choose between the United States and China or risk the consequences.
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told reporters on Monday: “In Portugal it is the representatives chosen by the Portuguese and they alone who decide on their destiny, respecting the constitution and the rights it gives them.”
Glass told the newspaper Expresso at the weekend that Portugal had to pick between its American “friends and allies” and its “economic partner” China. He described the country as a “battlefield” between Washington and Beijing.
Portugal could expect consequences related to security and defence if it choose to work with China over the United States in developments related to 5G networks and others, he said.
In response, Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva told Lusa news agency: “In Portugal the decision-makers are the Portuguese authorities, who decide which are Portugal’ interests”.
The three companies who dominate Portugal’s mobile phone market have already said they would not use Huawei technology in their core 5G networks, but the Portuguese government has not banned the Chinese group from supplying the infrastructure.
China looped Portugal into its Belt and Road initiative in December 2018 and in recent years Chinese companies have invested about 10 billion euros in the country, making it one of the biggest recipients of Chinese investment in Europe.
Several Portuguese companies have opened doors to Chinese investment.
State-owned China Three Gorges has a 23% stake in Portugal’s main utility EDP and last month the country’s largest builder Mota-Engil said it was close to sealing a deal to sell a 30% stake in the company to China Communications Construction Co.