China-Latin Amer­ica ties aimed at mu­tual ben­e­fit

China has ev­ery rea­son to co­op­er­ate closely with Latin Amer­ica to boost glob­al­iza­tion. There­fore, US strate­gists in­clined to med­dle in China-Latin Amer­ica af­fairs would com­mit a grave mis­take.

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

At the meet­ing with his Ecuado­rian coun­ter­part Rafael Cor­rea in Quito on Thurs­day, Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping reaf­firmed that China’s aid to the coun­try has no strings at­tached. Xi’s re­mark dur­ing his visit to Ecuador, is well in line with the spirit of his third visit to Latin Amer­ica since 2013.

Xi’s Latin Amer­ica itin­er­ary also in­cludes vis­its to Peru, where he at­tended the APEC Eco­nomic Lead­ers’Meet­ing dur­ing the week­end, and Chile.

His visit is ex­pected to add more weight to China’s prom­ise to deepen re­la­tions with the three coun­tries, as mul­ti­ple agree­ments— from trade and in­vest­ment to fi­nance and nu­clear power— have al­ready been signed or will be signed dur­ing the rest of his three-na­tion tour. That China and Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries have en­joyed high-level po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and cul­tural ex­changes over the past decade or so speaks vol­umes of Bei­jing’s com­mit­ment.

The two sides have also reached a num­ber of strate­gic con­sen­suses and have taken sim­i­lar or the same stances on ma­jor in­ter­na­tional is­sues.

China’s di­rect in­vest­ment in Latin Amer­ica reached $126.3 bil­lion by last year. Its con­sid­er­able de­mand for nat­u­ral re­sources has helped the Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries not only raise cap­i­tal but also en­hance their in­vest­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

That, of course, is just one side of the story. On the one hand, Latin Amer­ica, home to abun­dant nat­u­ral re­sources, is will­ing to deepen its trade in­te­gra­tion with China. On the other hand, there have been con­cerns about Bei­jing’s “ob­ses­sion” with Latin Amer­i­can re­sources, which some say will pro­long the ex­port­ing coun­tries’ re­liance on the pri­mary sec­tor and thus de­lay their in­dus­trial trans­for­ma­tion.

Fear­ing that the con­stantly evolv­ing China-Latin Amer­ica re­la­tion­ship might af­fect its in­flu­ence in the West­ern hemi­sphere, the United States is watch­ing closely the course two-way trade and ex­changes take. Some even ar­gue Bei­jing’s in­creas­ing pres­ence in Latin Amer­ica could pose a chal­lenge to Wash­ing­ton’s in­flu­ence over the Panama Canal, a ma­jor chan­nel for the flow of com­modi­ties in the re­gion.

The truth is, none of these ar­gu­ments holds wa­ter. The boom­ing trade be­tween China and Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries is pri­mar­ily driven by their com­ple­men­tary na­ture. China needs con­sid­er­able nat­u­ral re­sources to fuel its man­u­fac­tur­ing en­gine and to sus­tain its eco­nomic growth. And since re­source-rich Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries hope to strengthen and ex­pand their man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, they are jus­ti­fi­ably mo­ti­vated to pro­vide what they have in ex­change for China’s in­vest­ment and man­u­fac­tur­ing ex­per­tise.

There is no ev­i­dence of Bei­jing seek­ing to fill in the strate­gic “vac­uum” left by Wash­ing­ton in Latin Amer­ica ei­ther. China has a de­cent record of us­ing the Panama Canal, and its so-called mil­i­tary in­ter­ac­tions with Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries are ba­si­cally con­fined to de­fense per­son­nel ex­changes and train­ing ex­er­cises. In other words, China has ev­ery rea­son to co­op­er­ate closely with Latin Amer­ica to boost glob­al­iza­tion. There­fore, US strate­gists in­clined to med­dle in China-Latin Amer­ica af­fairs would com­mit a grave mis­take.

To clear such mis­un­der­stand­ings, China should keep ex­plain­ing to the US that its deep­en­ing in­ter­ac­tions with Latin Amer­ica is not tar­geted at any third party. The win-win co­op­er­a­tion be­tween China and Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries can also ef­fec­tively re­duce the num­ber of il­le­gal mi­grants and drug-traf­fick­ers en­ter­ing the US by driv­ing eco­nomic growth and cre­at­ing more jobs, which has long been a prob­lem for the US.

Be­sides, there is plenty of room for China-US co­op­er­a­tion to help ex­pand the Latin Amer­i­can mar­ket, es­pe­cially in the fields of in­fra­struc­ture, en­ergy and agri­cul­ture. China’s ef­forts to help im­prove the lives and liveli­hoods of the peo­ple in Latin Amer­ica de­serve bet­ter than aim­less fin­ger-point­ing. The au­thor is di­rec­tor of the cen­ter for Latin Amer­i­can stud­ies, Shang­hai Univer­sity.

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