Xi's grand tour reaps grand rewards

By Zhao Jinglun
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 6, 2013
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Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Mexico on a state visit on Tuesday. Xi's visit to Mexico comes after he completed his state visit to Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago earlier this week. [Photo/Chinanews.com]

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Mexico on a state visit on Tuesday. Xi's visit to Mexico comes after he completed his state visit to Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago earlier this week. [Photo/Chinanews.com]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, both newly elected leaders of their respective countries, pledged during their recent meeting in Mexico to elevate relations between Beijing and Mexico City to a comprehensive strategic partnership. The two leaders agreed to further consolidate the role of the China-Mexico binational commission so as to promote, consolidate and trace the development of that partnership.

"Comprehensive" means all-round cooperation in every sphere: Political, economic, cultural and social. The two countries announced a series of agreements covering energy, trade and education. Mexico's state-owned oil giant Pemex, signed an agreement during President Pena's visit to China in April to ship 30,000 barrels of oil a day to Sinopec, China's state-owned company.

China is Mexico's second largest trading partner, while Mexico is China's second largest trading partner in Latin America. Two-way trade soared from some US$5 billion in 2003 to more than US$36 billion in 2012.

China and Mexico are both developing countries at a critical juncture in their development. Both are countries with an ancient civilization whose influence far exceeds their borders. When I went to Chichen Itza in Yucatan, the largest archeological site of the Mayan civilization, I saw a pyramid, an observatory and the oldest "basketball court" in the Americas, where the Mayans played an early version of the game which is now so popular in the U.S. I have also been rafting on a river in romantic Acapulco, and snorkeling in Puerto Vallarta. Beautiful Mexico is a potential haven for Chinese tourists.

Before visiting Mexico, President Xi also toured Trinidad and Tobago, where he met with ten Caribbean leaders and promised US$3 billion in loans for projects in the region. Among the loans was one for US$250 million to build a children's hospital in Trinidad, the Caribbean's largest energy supplier, which has abundant supplies of natural gas as well as the natural asphalt which paved many of China's roads and airports.

In San Jose, President Xi also signed an agreement to grant Costa Rica a US$400 million credit line for infrastructure and energy projects. At the same time, the two countries formalized a previously disclosed loan of about US$900 million for Costa Rica to upgrade its main refinery to process about 65,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

X's visit to the Caribbean and Central America will surely promote the rapid growth of both Latin America's economy and China-Latin American relations.

President Xi's tour will culminate in a two-day meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Sunnylands, California, which has been billed as a"shirtsleeves summit". The desert retreat in Ranchio Mirage was chosen for its more informal nature in order to nurture a high-level friendship. It was also the site where Republican bigwigs hosted visitors including Queen Elizabeth II, Frank Sinatra, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.

The informal setting is designed to facilitate wide-ranging and in-depth conversations which may define, or redefine, Sino-U.S. relations, perhaps heralding a new era in relations between the world's great powers (See my previous column). As resigning National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who helped arrange the summit, put it: "They [the two presidents] sense that this is an important moment in the relationship."

Despite all the hopeful language, the summit will be followed three days later by an unprecedented U.S.-Japan joint military exercise to "seize" San Clemente Island off San Diego, not far from Sunnylands. The operation has been codenamed "Dawn Blitz 13". Japan will send all three branches of its Defense Force, totaling some 1,000 men, as well as a large helicopter carrier, and an aegis destroyer. Could this exercise be a preview of a joint U.S.-Japanese attack on China's Diaoyu Islands?

Even if this exercise is a practical demonstration of Washington's "forward partnering" approach, it seems like a strange of strange timing.

The author is a columnist with China.org.cn. For more information please visit:


Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.


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