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UPDATED: July 11, 2015
Building Partnerships
China-Latin America economic ties are being elevated to new heights
By Bai Shi

Building partnerships with other countries is a major element of China's foreign policy. Presently, China has established partnerships with the four nations of Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba—all of which President Xi visited on his tour, allowing for the further enhancement of bilateral relations.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela respectively, highlighting a special significance for Xi's visit to the three countries.

Reinforcing partnerships

Today, China has become the first or second largest trading partner for many Latin American countries, including the four nations that President Xi most recently visited. From 2011 to 2013, China's annual investment in Latin American and Caribbean countries exceeded $10 billion, playing an important role in driving Latin American economic growth, China Radio International reported.

Bilateral trade between China and Brazil increased rapidly from $5 billion in 2002 to nearly $90 billion at present, said the Brazilian Ambassador to China Valdemar Carneiro Leao in an interview with Xinhua.

The investment of Chinese enterprises in Brazil has expanded from mineral and energy to manufacturing and information technology as well as financial services. Many Brazilian companies have also established branches in China, Leao said.

Brazil holds a leading position in the aircraft industry. For example, Embraer S.A., a jet producer of Brazil, has accounted for 70 percent of market shares in commercial jets with less than 120 seats in China since it entered the country in 2000, Leao said.

China and Brazil issued a joint statement pledging to enhance their comprehensive strategic partnership and increase communication on regional and global issues on July 17. The two sides signed 56 agreements during Xi's state visit to Brazil.

Argentina is a member of the G20 and a major economy of South America. During Xi's visit to the country, China and Argentina agreed to upgrade the bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership on July 18.

China and Argentina first established a strategic partnership in 2004. Since then, bilateral trade has grown dramatically from $4.1 billion to $14.8 billion last year. China has also become the largest exporting destination for Argentina's agricultural products. On July 18, the two countries signed an agreement to finance the largest hydropower station project in Argentina.

Venezuela also issued a joint declaration with China on upgrading bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership on July 21 during President Xi's visit.

Venezuela, while rich in oil resources, has a big demand for infrastructure construction and economic development, Chinese Ambassador to Venezuela Zhao Rongxian told Xinhua. The volume of trade between China and Venezuela reached $19.2 billion in 2013. The strategic cooperation on energy has taken shape since the two countries built a partnership for common development in 2001. On one hand, China's demand for oil has grown steadily in recent years; on the other hand, Venezuela is implementing a strategy to diversify its oil exports, Zhao said.

Cuba is seen as an old friend to China. In 1960, Cuba became the first Latin American nation to establish diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. Despite the many twists and turns of international relations, the friendship between the two countries remains strong. During his tour in Havana, capital of Cuba, on July 22, President Xi paid a visit to Cuban revolution leader Fidel Castro—an iconic figure of the Cold War period and a founder of the Sino-Cuban friendship. President Xi and Cuban leader Raul Castro pledged that the two countries will remain long-term partners in the search for reciprocal cooperation.

China has advantages in infrastructure and railway construction, which appeals to many developing countries, said Zhou Yongsheng, professor of international relations at the China Foreign Affairs University.

"In spite of being an increasing economic power, China does not attach political conditions on its loans to other countries; nor does it interfere in the internal affairs of debtor nations," Zhou said. "For this reason, developing countries are willing to work and cooperate with China."

Email us at: baishi@bjreview.com

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