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Is China's development threatening Latin America?

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-02-13 16:33

BEIJING - Just as the Chinese engage in shopping for the upcoming Lunar New Year, on the other side of the globe the busiest season for Chilean cherry farmers and exporters is starting.

Like many other Latin American products, the juicy fruit has become a favorite of China's rapidly expanding middle class. Today, more than 80 percent of Chile's cherry exports enter the Chinese market, a strong contribution to surging bilateral trade.

In 2017, the total trade volume between China and Latin American countries rose 18.8 percent to nearly $260 billion. Trade structure is improving as China is importing more agricultural products and manufactured goods from the region.

Meanwhile, China's direct investment in Latin America is estimated at more than $25 billion, accounting for 15 percent of the total foreign direct investment in the region last year.

The solid cooperation and benefits to the Latin American people stand as a perfect defense against the accusation of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said earlier this month that China was "using economic statecraft to pull the region into its orbit."

It also explained why Tillerson's assertion found little support during and after his five-nation trip to Latin America and the Caribbean.

In an article published last week, Argentina's leading newspaper Clarin said the Argentine government had defended its links with China.

"At this moment, China has a very important role with all Latin American countries, both in the commercial and financial and investment fields," it said, quoting Diego Guelar, the Argentine ambassador to China.

Meanwhile, Peru's Foreign Trade and Tourism Minister Eduardo Ferreyros also said that Tillerson's doubts about China were attempts at deflection.

"China is a good trade partner," said Ferreyros. "We're happy with the results of the trade agreement."

While the United States asserts itself as the "steadiest, strongest, and most enduring partner" of Latin American countries, China, on the contrary, has always pursued win-win cooperation based on equality, reciprocity, openness and inclusiveness.

"The development of China-Latin America ties does not target or reject any third party, nor does it affect the interests of third parties in Latin America," said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying earlier this month.

Chinese enterprises created 1.8 million jobs in Latin America between 1995 and 2016, according to data from the International Labor Organization. They have invested in sectors like communication, real estate, food and renewable energy to improve local infrastructure and consumption.

"For Latin America, China's development brings opportunities rather than threats," said Mexican Ambassador to China Jose Bernal.

"We have noticed opportunities to strengthen economic and trade cooperation, tap into the Chinese market and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides," Bernal said.

At the second ministerial meeting for the China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Forum in Chile last month, representatives to the forum passed three outcome documents, including a special declaration on the Belt and Road Initiative.

"It showed a high degree of consensus by Latin American countries on deepening cooperation with China," said Hua, who noted that both sides were facing common tasks of development, and cooperation between China and Latin America was based on mutual interests and needs.

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