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UPDATED: November 25, 2008 NO. 48 NOV. 27, 2008
The Long View
China's first Latin American policy paper is a road map for future relations

Third, the paper confirms cooperation in a wide range of fields, including international affairs, judicial and police affairs, science and technology, education, medicine, climate change, disaster relief and exchanges between militaries, legislatures, local governments, political parties and high-level officials.

Fourth, the paper expresses for the first time the Chinese Government's desire to "view its relations with Latin America and the Caribbean from a strategic plane." China's relationship with Latin American countries has seen rapid development in recent years, but its view on this region has not reached a strategic plane yet.

As it enters the 21st century, China finally realizes that Latin America has great strategic importance. It can cooperate with China in politics and jointly construct a harmonious world. Economically, it affords China abundant resources and a huge market.

Fifth, the paper reiterates the Chinese Government's commitment to the one-China policy and declares it the political basis for the establishment and development of relations between China and Latin American and Caribbean countries and regional organizations. Fulfilling unity is a common wish of the Chinese nation. Twenty-three countries still maintain "diplomatic relationships" with Taiwan, including 12 in Latin America. It is obvious that China should pay more attention to Latin America, especially on the Taiwan issue.

Sixth, the paper does not dodge the issue of military cooperation, which is still fairly sensitive. The United States has expressed great concern about China-Latin America military cooperation. The paper clearly states, "The Chinese side will actively carry out military exchanges and defense dialogue and cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean countries."

The next steps

Cooperation in some fields mentioned in the policy paper is still in its infancy, while opportunities for cooperation in other fields remain unexplored. Therefore, China and Latin American countries should work hard together to turn the paper's goals into reality.

Only once countries understand each other can they achieve full trade and economic cooperation. Until now, people in China and Latin America have had limited knowledge about each other. According to a recent poll by the Institute of Latin American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, about half of respondents failed to even name the official language of Brazil and other South American countries. They are anxious to learn about Latin America, but have very limited ways to do so.

Implementing the paper requires active coordination and support from the Latin American side. For example, trade conflicts grow with the development of bilateral trade. China should perfect its trade structure and increase imports from Latin America to solve these conflicts. In the meantime, Latin American countries should also stick to WTO rules instead of taking antidumping measures to protect their domestic markets.

The paper points out, "The Chinese Government encourages and supports qualified Chinese companies with good reputation in investing in manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, fishing, energy, mineral resources, infrastructure, and service sector in Latin America and the Caribbean to promote the economic and social development of both sides." However, Chinese entrepreneurs often complain about Latin America's social instability, corruption and inefficiency. Powerful labor unions in these countries also cause Chinese investors headaches when they organize prolonged strikes over issues that Chinese may think trivial. Better communication seems to be necessary to create a better environment in Latin American countries for Chinese investment.

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