One more step towards better China-Latin America relations

By Jiang Shixue
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, May 30, 2013
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The Chinese President Xi Jinping  will visit Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico from May 31 to June 6. This is Xi's first trip to the other side of the pond as China's top leader.

Not many Chinese people have heard of or know much about Trinidad and Tobago. However this Caribbean nation has some unique characteristics. Its steel drums make marvelous music; its Pitch Lake produces high-quality asphalt, which is used to pave many Chinese highways, including the one from downtown Beijing to the Capital Airport; and, finally, its former Prime Minister Eric Williams (Sep. 25, 1911 - Mar. 29, 1981) had four of his books published in China: Capitalism and Slavery (The University of North Carolina Press, 1944), History of the People of Trinidad and Tobago (Andre Deutsch Limited, 1964), From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean (Andre Deutsch limited, 1970), and Inward Hunger: The Education of A Prime Minister (the University of Chicago Press, 1991). He was probably the only foreign leader who had so many books translated in Chinese.

Diplomatic relations between China and Trinidad and Tobago were established in 1974. In 2005, a partnership of mutual beneficial development and friendly cooperation was set up. Xi will be the first Chinese head of state to visit Trinidad and Tobago. As a matter of fact, the first group of Chinese arrived in Trinidad as "contract workers" in the early 19th century, and in the last two centuries, their descendants have made great contributions to the progress of Trinidad and Tobago. Some of the Trinidadian of Chinese descent have entered its national political stage.

China and Costa Rica set up diplomatic ties on June 1, 2007. It was the Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Laureate in 1987, who made the bold diplomatic move.

After Costa Rica gave its loyalty to China, Taiwan severed its 63-year old relations with the Central American nation and all bilateral projects were immediately terminated. Due to the "diplomatic truce" in the Taiwan Strait, Costa Rica remains the only country in Central America to keep diplomatic relations with China.

On August 17, 2012, Xi Jinping, who was then vice president, met with the Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla Miranda in Beijing. Xi summarized the achievements of the bilateral relations in three points. First, political mutual trust had been enhanced; second, both sides had enjoyed fruitful economic and trade cooperation, including the ratification of a free trade agreement in August 2011; and third, exchanges and cooperation in other areas had also been developing.

China's relations with Mexico are dated back to several hundred years or even earlier. Some Chinese scholars relied on classical Chinese writings and even some archeological findings to support their argument that the New World was not discovered by Columbus in 1492, but by a Chinese. According to their findings, as early as in the fifth century, a Chinese monk (or master) named Hui Shen (慧深) arrived in what is now called Mexico, then known as Fu-sang (扶桑) in Chinese.

No matter who discovered the Americas, initial contacts between China and Latin America dated back to the late sixteenth century when the so-called Silk Road was built between China's coastal region and Mexico's Acapulco via Manila.

China and Mexico officially set up their diplomatic relations in 1972, only after Cuba (1960), Chile (1970) and Peru (1971), and then established strategic partnership in 2003. China has now become Mexico's second largest trade partner after the United States.

However, booming trade relations between China and Mexico have also created frictions. Some Mexicans blame China for three things. First, Chinese exports have exerted great pressure on the Mexican market. Second, China forcefully competes with Mexico on the U.S. market. Finally, the attractiveness of the Chinese markets has diverted foreign investment away from Mexico.

To protect its domestic market, Mexico has been using anti-dumping tariffs against Chinese exports. The ridiculous tariff against Chinese shoes was as high as more than 1000 percent tantamount to a ban of imports.

On the political field, China is not happy with Mexico's repeated violation of China's "red line." Several Mexican presidents have met with the Dalai Lama although they claim that the adherence of the Mexican government to the One-China policy is unchanged.

Xi visited Mexico in February 2009 as China's vice president. When he met the Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Xi said China would always treat Sino-Mexican ties from a strategic height, and would regard Mexico as a good friend and partner of China in Latin America.

It was during this trip to Mexico that Xi expressed the well-known "Three Nots" to Mexico City.

"Faced with the international financial storm, China can fundamentally solve the problem of feeding its 1.3 billion people," said Xi. "This is a great contribution to mankind. But some foreigners, with full bellies and nothing better to do, point fingers at us. First, China does not export revolution; second, it does not export famine and poverty; and third, it does not mess around with you. So what else is there to say?"

In order to further strengthen its bilateral relations with Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica, Mexico and other Latin American countries, the Chinese government needs to take the following important measures: First, try to defuse the mentality of "fear of China" or "China's threat" by strengthening mutual understanding; second, ask the Chinese enterprises investing there to undertake more social responsibilities; and finally, import more products from Latin America.

The author is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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