Talks with US key to better Sino-LatAm ties

By Liu Yuqin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/25 18:28:39

China-Latin America relations made remarkable achievements in 2018 but will face challenges next year. Thus, it is important for Chinese authorities, think tanks and media to be prepared for what is coming.

Latin America has gone through political evolution in recent years as the right-wing advanced and the left-wing lost steam. In the elections in 2018, Mexicans chose the left-wing while Brazilians preferred the right. However, it was not caused by the electorate's ideological convictions.

More likely, electors used votes to penalize the governments and show them the door - widely attributed to the anti-incumbency factor. Corruption among officials was a factor that influenced voters' choice, and so did the changing situation in Latin America and the world.

Therefore, we could take ideology into consideration when making policies about the continent, but should not give it undue importance.

China is practically and realistically handling relations and cooperating with countries in Latin America; what we should pay more attention to is rising populism, which could affect cooperation and relations between the two sides.

We should not be overoptimistic about relations with Latin America although ties between the region and China did leap forward in 2018.

When considering policies on Latin America, we must keep in mind that we don't have an advantage in the area vis-à-vis the US.

Washington could be another factor that we must not overlook. The US intends to put pressure on Latin American countries because it doesn't want to see China get along well with them. Actually, China-Latin America cooperation does not harm US interest, but Washington believes China's footprint in the region will be a threat to its dominance.

Under the circumstances, I suggest improving communication with the US for 2019.

There used to be a dialogue between China and the US on Latin American affairs but it was suspended in recent years. The mechanism should be restored.

We must pay attention to the feelings of Latin American countries and do our best not to make them choose a side.

The simplicity of the Latin American economy and its dependence on the export of raw materials is not going to change in a short time. So, we could expand our exports to Latin American nations and open our market wider to them by removing as many obstacles as possible - like China's quarantine of imported products. Similar moves would affect our tangible interest in Latin America and help China acquire more leverage.

The leverage here does not mean acting against the US. Strengthening talks with the US and Latin America is what China should do, and Beijing's improved cooperation with Latin America could help alleviate the pressure of the trade war.

Another factor that could affect China is the crisis in Venezuela, which has been suffering due to US interference. China should clarify its position on firmly backing Venezuela, opposing US hegemony and interference in the Latin American nation's internal affairs.

The US would not let go of this issue before achieving its goal, even if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro were to follow Washington's suit. On the other hand, although some other Latin American countries are not satisfied with Venezuela due to the security and refugee problems the country created, they wish all the same that China could do something to help the embattled nation.

This being the case, I hope China will be active in participating in the regional affairs of Latin America, making full use of the China-Latin America forum to cross the barriers it could face.

The author is former ambassador to Ecuador, Chile and Cuba and a committee member for foreign affairs at The Chahar Institute. The article is an abstract of her speech at a seminar on the Situation in Latin America and China-Latin America Relations organized by The Charhar Institute on December 17.

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