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China gets closer to Latin America

By Kelly Chung Dawson | China Daily | Updated: 2011-06-13 08:55

NEW YORK - Vice-President Xi Jinping's recently concluded three-nation tour of Latin America is likely to further enhance China's relations with the region, experts said.

China's economic ties with Latin America are booming and its trade with the region totaled $180 billion last year, up 50 percent from 2009, according to Xinhua News Agency.

"That's the primary interest, as opposed to projecting power into the region," said Eric Farnsworth, vice-president of the Council of the Americas, a business organization devoted to economic development in areas including Latin America.

Worries that China's presence in the region will challenge US interests are totally unnecessary, said He Shuangrong, a professor at the Institute of Latin American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

"The growth of Latin American countries' economies will also benefit the United States and other countries," she said.

Relations between China and the region have been beneficial for both sides, Farnsworth added.

"Sales of commodities have amplified and increased the economies of Latin America, and specifically during an important time when the global economy has been troubled," Farnsworth said.

"Much of Latin America has largely avoided the downturn in large measure because of its trade with China, and in fact has come out of the recession stronger than before," he added.

However, discussion about whether the cooperation has resulted in greater gains for China has grown in recent months, said Michael Kulma, executive director of global leadership initiatives for the Asia Society in New York.

Concerns about unbalanced and thus somewhat fragile trade ties are exactly why China and Latin American countries are together exploring new fields of cooperation, because major fluctuations in trade ties are no good for either side, said He from CASS.

Beyond its economic ties with Latin America, China is also interested in promoting its image internationally, Kulma said.

China's infrastructure projects in the Caribbean are examples of non-economically motivated relationships in the region.

As China has developed the capacity to provide aid or build infrastructure, it has been playing an increasingly important role in these sorts of projects, Kulma said.

"The Confucius Institutes are another example of the Chinese building relationships, and I expect them to deepen these relationships in the future," he added.

Farnsworth said: "China has shown an interest in countries even when they don't have a lot in the way of commodities to sell. These projects seem to be done with the purpose of building positive relations, developing goodwill and providing a way to gain expertise in the region."

Augusto Soto, a lecturer at the ESADE Business School in Spain, also expects to see further development in other fields.

"What one sees is a clear tendency for even stronger ties in economic, educational, scientific and military affairs," he said.

"I expect more educational and scientific exchanges, as well as more political dialogue."

Ma Liyao contributed to this story.

China Daily

(China Daily 06/13/2011 page11)

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