Monday June 1, 2020


June 7, 2013

President Xi Jinping’s recent trip to Latin America and the Caribbean is viewed by many as a stepping stone towards better bilateral relations between China and the region. The purpose of the trip was to deepen friendships and expand cooperation in economics and trade. China promoted its soft power, projecting itself as a peaceful and responsible global leader.

In the past, economic and trade relations have tied China and Latin America close together. Bilateral trade between the two sides continued to grow even when the world was experiencing a global economic downturn. Chinese companies’ investments in the region, totaling about $65 billion dollars, impact political, economic, and social dynamics in Latin America. For example, domestic job opportunities have increased as a result of this Chinese investment.

China-Caribbean Relations

President Xi kicked off his trip by meeting in Trinidad and Tobago with heads of state from Caribbean countries. Xi’s visit was the first ever by a Chinese president to Trinidad and Tobago.

The Chinese government welcomed Trinidad and Tobago businesses to the Chinese market, emphasizing its oil and gas resources. Although bilateral trade might be adversely affected by the physical distance between the two countries, China has still adopted low or zero tariff rates to facilitate more trade with Caribbean nations.

China showed its commitment to the region by pledging further assistance with infrastructure projects. According to Bloomberg News, China has promised $2 million in loans for projects such as building stadiums, roads, ports, and tourist resorts in the region. Ariel C. Armony, director for the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami, believes such assistance is more than simply providing aid to countries that lack resources.

“A national stadium in the Bahamas represents a celebration of national identity and a chance for citizens to assert a sense of nationhood,” Armony said. “Beijing understands well that this is a way to build a long-term relationship with countries that are eager to receive attention from the global power.”

In comparison to Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s recent meeting with 15 Caribbean leaders, Xi Jinping’s meeting had a more tangible impact. Mr. Biden spoke about providing help for clean energy research and education and promised to dismantle remaining trade and investment barriers, but, unlike Xi, announced no new initiatives.


China-Costa Rica Relations

President Xi continued his trip from the Caribbean to Costa Rica, the only country in Central America without diplomatic ties to Taiwan. Costa Rican President Laura Chichilla and President Xi discussed commercial and energy projects, including upgrading oil refineries and developing a free trade zone.

The Chinese president signed an agreement to grant Costa Rica a $400 million line of credit for energy and infrastructure projects. They also formalized a $900 million loan enabling Costa Rica to upgrade its main oil refinery to process 65,000 barrels a day. Costa Rica serves as a key source for China’s energy needs.

China’s impact on Costa Rica goes beyond economics and trade. Xi has agreed on a number of infrastructure plans to help the country, including $300 million in loans to build a new highway.

Eduardo Ulibarri, Costa Rica’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York, described the visit as adding a “new momentum” to the young relationship between the two countries. Trade relationships between China and Costa Rica have changed significantly since their diplomatic agreement six years ago.

China-Mexico Relations

Although China and Mexico are seen as competitors in the global economy, competing with each other to export manufactured goods to the U.S., the two are attempting to cooperate more. During his three day trip in Mexico, Xi, with President Peña Nieto, announced a series of cooperative agreements.

The two presidents agreed on a number of steps to promote the development of bilateral trade and investment. The two sides agreed to establish a high-level working group, comprised of distinguished entrepreneurs, in a bid to promote economic and trade relations and find new opportunities for cooperation. They also agreed to improve the bilateral high level working group between China’s Ministry of Commerce and Mexico’s Ministry of Economy so that the group can play a more active role in bilateral economic dialogue. In addition, they will open a department in charge of Mexico-China economic affairs under the Mexican Embassy in China. China also promised to import more pork and tequila from Mexico.

In addition to trade relations, both countries place an importance on cultural understanding. Mexico has the most Confucius Institutes in Latin America and the National Autonomous University of Mexico will set up a Mexican cultural center in China. China will open a Chinese cultural center in Mexico City. In addition, China will offer summer vacations to 100 Mexican children this year, and will provide 100 scholarships to Mexican students each year for the next three years.

What does China’s action in Latin America mean for the U.S.?

Many have noted the significance of President Xi’s trip for Chinese and Latin American relations. The trip serves as a message to the U.S. of China’s growing power in global diplomacy. As the U.S. continues to exert its influence in the Asia Pacific, China is expanding its influence in the Atlantic. By trading with Latin America, China is, likewise, extending its influence in the Western Hemisphere, which has traditionally been dominated by the U.S.

For more information about President Xi’s trip to Latin America, see the following news articles:

China DailyA new stage of interaction

China DailyChina, Mexico boost relations

China DailyDeals to link Costa Rican market

China DailyXi offers Caribbean nations support


People’s Daily OnlineChina, Mexico pledge to deepen cooperation in economy, trade


The New York TimesChinese President Makes Bridge-Building Trip to Mexico


USA Today – President Xi uses trip to increase China’s influence


Washington Post – China gives Costa Rica $900M line of credit for refinery, agreements on energy and transport

Washington PostXi visits US, Latin America as leader of more confident China after decade of explosive growth


Xinhua – President Xi Jinping Gives a Joint Written Interview to the Media of    Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico






For Chinese language news on President Xi’s trip to Latin America, see the articles below:

Xinhua (新华) – “习近平在墨西哥参议院的演讲

Xinhua(新华)– “习近平拉美之行有力提升中拉全面做伙伴关系

Gov(中央政府)– “习近平在墨西哥城接受市长曼塞拉授予的城市钥匙

The Wall Street Journal (华尔街日报) – “习近平访问哥斯达黎加 欲加强与拉美关系

RFI (华语)– “习近平访问 哥斯达黎加中哥签署重大经贸合同

Phoenix News (凤凰网) – “习近平唔特立尼达和多巴哥总统:相知者 不以万里为远


Compiled and edited by Xi Gao