President Xi Jinping’s recent trip to Latin America fully demonstrated the strategic aspiration of China as an emerging global power, conveying explicit Chinese confidence, capability, philosophy, image, and vision.
Chinese confidence refers to the Chinese initiative for cooperation with BRICS nations and Latin American countries. The emerging partnerships between BRICS nations are one of the newly formulated multi-lateral international governance mechanisms prompted by the global financial crisis. In the post-crisis period, countries joined hands for mutual assistance and policy coordination and successfully revitalized domestic demand through large-scale financial stimulus packages. These efforts were outstanding contributions to stabilizing the world economy.
Over the past two years however, many emerging economies, including BRICS members, have seen growth slowing down amid increasing downward pressure. People are less optimistic about the future of emerging economies, and western nations, who have begun to see signs of recovery, are again raising doubts about the economic prospects of BRICS countries. During a recent BRICS summit, President Xi Jinping made a passionate call for member nations to unite more closely, rise to face these economic challenges, and enhance confidence in fulfilling the goals of inclusive growth.
President Xi and leaders of other member countries presided over the establishment of the New Development Bank, showcasing resolve and a capability for jointly coping with the challenges that resulted from an imbalanced and obsolete international governance regime. The collective consultation between BRICS and Latin American leaders was not only beneficial for BRICS nations, but it was also a great boost to the stagnating South American economy.
Chinese capability was specifically reflected in the new framework for cooperation between China and Latin America, which was proposed by President Xi. With trade, investment, and financial collaboration as the three engines driving the “China and Latin American and Caribbean countries cooperation plan（2015—2019）,” he cooperative relationship is expected to bring bilateral trade to $500 billion in 10 years (about the same level of current Sino-US trade). Bilateral financial cooperation between China and Latin America will reach $250 billion in 10 years, including the expansion of local currency settlements and exchanges in trade.
During President Xi’s visits, China signed cooperation agreements with Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and Cuba respectively. Under these agreements, China will provide $70 billion to those countries via preferential loans and special funds, supporting their collaboration with China in energy and resources, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, scientific and technological innovation, as well as information technologies, thus promoting cooperation between Chinese and Latin American industries. Such cooperation will not only satisfy the latter’s pressing needs for capital, but, at the same time, it will provide a larger market for Chinese products, technologies, and equipment. This further guarantees the safe and sustainable supply of external resources and energy.
Chinese philosophy refers to principles of international cooperation, which President Xi systematically elaborated on during his visits. On several occasions, President Xi expounded on the outlook for political cooperation: “Mountains and oceans can’t prevent those of common ideals from making concerted efforts.” President Xi expressed an outlook on economic cooperation: “Unite and all progress, or each recedes on its own.” On cultural cooperation, “that things differ from each other is a matter of course.” On security cooperation, “don’t do unto others what you don’t want others do unto you.” In Sum, President Xi highlighted the inseparable correlation between the existence and prosperity of China and that of the rest of the world. More importantly, he not only put forward the concept that China and Latin America are one “community of common destiny,” but he also demonstrated through a series of concrete measures of cooperation that China is willing to share with Latin America its experiences and achievements.
China is willing to contribute to the unity and common prosperity of developing countries. Generally improving China-Latin America cooperation, speaking in one voice with Latin America, and promoting a just international order is an increasingly important political consideration behind China’s growing emphasis on Latin America. The birth of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States offers new opportunities for the two parties’ constructive interaction.
The Chinese image has been greatly enriched by President Xi’s visits. First, on various occasions, Xi clearly expressed an understanding of and support for host countries’ domestic and foreign policies, displaying China’s commitment to justice and fairness as an emerging power. Second, he repeatedly accentuated the need for civilizations to learn from each other, as well as knowledge about and respect for the local culture, relating the “Chinese Dream” to the “Latin American Dream”. Third, as personal gifts, he took with him a number of movie and TV products reflecting people’s lives in present-day China. He proposed to set up the “Bridge to the Future” training program for Chinese and Latin American youth leaders to facilitate mutual understanding. Additionally, it is noteworthy that before departing from Argentina, President Xi made an impromptu decision to get off his vehicle and shake hands with local guards, leaving a heart-warming impression of modesty, amicability and affability.
In summary, the Chinese vision refers to a strategic motivation behind the aforementioned four-aspect Chinese outreach: Consolidate and expand South-South cooperation, promote a multi-polar world order; obtain more strategic leverage for future development through enhancing all around cooperation with BRICS countries and Latin America, so as to hedge increasing external risks and challenges; improve awareness and the ability of providing international public goods, thus building the image of a responsible emerging power; Effectively translate the country’s widely accepted development achievements into cultural and social influences, thus upgrading comprehensive competitiveness.
Wu Baiyi is a research fellow at the Institute of Latin American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.