How to expand relations between two regions which already have substantial economic and governmental ties, but aspire to greater levels of mutual understanding, was the main theme of debates in a forum between academics and political experts from China, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
During the Fourth Forum of young leaders and intellectuals from China, Latin America, and the Caribbean, which took place over two days in Beijing, representatives from both regions held “frank” discussions about the challenges of improving mutual understanding and creating strong mechanisms to reinforce a relationship in “full ascent.”
During the event, organized by the All-China Youth Federation and part of activities held within the third edition of the Bridge to the Future program, conceived during the 2014 China-CELAC Forum, participants discussed the need to further strengthen people-to-people contacts in order to achieve a true understanding of one another.
“We must negotiate and work with China as a unified nation,” stated César Dávila, vice president of the Latin American students organization at the University of Tsinghua.
According to Dávila, originally from Peru but who studied Mandarin in Beijing, Chinese students still need to understand more about our culture, who we are and vice versa. “The first thing we need to do is break down all prejudices and barriers,” he explained.
The Asian giant has a well-defined long-term plan to expand ties with the continent, but some Latin American countries do not have a clear policy toward the nation, stated Zhou Zhiwei, researcher at the China Academy of Social Sciences. Many of the important initiatives to develop ties created here don’t enjoy the same level of response on the other side of the world,” he added.
As such, André Mendes, Brazilian Professor of International Relations, called on participants to work on theories “which set out our goals and respond to our needs; our mission is to develop theoretic frameworks for relations, different from those which have already been proposed by the United States and Europe.”
Meanwhile, according to Diego Mazzoccone from Argentina, director of the Latin American Center For Political and Economic Research on China (CLEPEC), the Forum “was created in 2013 to educate public officials and intellectuals about the world’s second-largest economy.”
According to Mazzoccone speaking to Granma, “We know that the political context of our countries of origin is very different from that of China’s, and the most important thing is for us to be able to learn from each other.”He went on to note that such interaction “could lead to ideas, successful exchanges, and above all generate confidence, and new friendships which contribute to building stronger political, diplomatic, commercial, and cultural ties.”
Meanwhile, Yin Hengmin, special government representative for Latin American Affairs, reiterated that his country is actively working to fulfill President Xi Jinping’s instructions “to build comprehensive associations of mutual and shared benefit with the region.”
Over recent years we have been promoting a new model of China-Latin America relations based on comprehensive cooperation, trust in the political sphere, and mutual benefit in the economic sector. However, we still have a long way to go to expand ties and connections, stated Yin.
Cuban journalist Javier Ortiz, speaking to Granma, noted, “Trade and economic investments aren’t enough, we also need mutual understanding which, to some extent, can be achieved through academic research and direct exchanges between social science professionals. If not, we run the risk of achieving only a superficial understanding of our respective realities.”
In this sense the Forum serves to identify areas linked to China-Latin America relations in need of attention, especially among intellectual and academic circles.
Young political leaders and academics meeting in the Chinese capital agreed that learning Spanish and Mandarin is essential to strengthening ties, as mastering these languages will not only contribute toward overcoming linguistic barriers but also to greater cultural understanding.
Participants went on to note that the intelligent use of modern technologies, a field in which China has much to offer, could help stimulate the construction of a “community of destiny and common benefit.”
China is just one country and there are over 30 in Latin America and the Caribbean, with complicated and dissimilar circumstances. The political realities of the region are very dynamic, with many changes which represents a disadvantage in regards to a medium and long-term strategy for relations with China. “This is the great challenge facing us, and it’s not an easy one,” according to Mazzoccone.
Perhaps one idea would be to create a permanent Latin American commission to define long-term strategies and above all, make investments and actively respond to efforts being undertaken on this side of the world, he noted.
Meanwhile, Javier Ortiz wishes that Latin American universities, especially Cuban ones, featured more courses on, or linked to, China.
It is vital that we understand China, its real interests in our countries and how it is approaching them, because some political forces believe, or hope, that China can assume a position similar to that of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. This is in fact a misconception which further study and academic work could correct and help toward achieving a better understanding of the present and future of China-Latin America relations.