Chaufa - Alternate Options
PRC Attorney General and foreign ministers visit LAC, Antigua and Barbuda PM off to Beijing, new lithium investment in Bolivia, PLA delegation in Peru
Welcome to Chaufa, a China-Western Hemisphere Newsletter by CPSI.
Today’s Edition covers January 15 to January 21.
Listen to Ethan discuss this week’s newsletter.
This Week’s Top 5 Stories:
Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, traveled to Jamaica and Brazil this week (Global Times):
In Jamaica, Wang discussed possible “economic and trade investment, new energy, agriculture, digital economy and blue economy” cooperation with PM Holness, though neither side announced any tangible deliverables. (CGTN)
Wang’s Brazilian counterpart hosted the fourth Comprehensive Strategic Dialogue to discuss development issues, international conflicts, and cooperation in multilateral fora like the BRICS, G20, and UN. Wang also met with President Lula, where Lula reiterated his One China Policy. The two sides also signed a visa facilitation agreement that would extend the length of visas from five to ten years. (FMPRC)
Chinese Agriculture Minister Tang Renjian also traveled to LAC, meeting with the Dominican Republic’s president to discuss unspecified agricultural matters. He also traveled to Mexico to meet with that country’s agriculture minister to discuss Mexican agri-food exports, agriculture technology, and a possible working group on sustainability.
Following Taiwan’s elections, several Caribbean countries expressed support for the PRC’s One China Principle or their own One China Policy in response to Taiwan’s elections, including Cuba, Barbados, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, and Dominica.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, will make an official visit to China from January 22-28. He is expected to travel to Beijing, Shanghai, and Zhejiang, meet with President Xi and Premier Li, and sign new cooperation agreements. (Xinhua)
Prime Minister Browne previously traveled to Beijing in 2014 to meet with President Xi and attend the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing. During that visit, he signed agreements on high-level exchanges, people-to-people ties, and infrastructure construction. (FMPRC)
A Chinese consortium of CATL, BRUNP & CMOC signed a $90 million investment agreement with Bolivia's state-owned Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos (YLB) to build a lithium carbonate pilot plant with Direct Lithium Extraction (DLE) technology.
The same CATL-led consortium also promised last year to build two new lithium extraction industrial plants, valued at $1.4 billion, in Bolivia.
Choosing the Chinese Ministers’ Itineraries
This week saw two major visits to the region, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Agriculture Minister Tang Renjian each visiting a Latin American and a Caribbean country.
Wang’s visits to Brasilia and Kingston were likely symbolic of how historically important each country has been to the PRC. Aside from being the largest LAC country, Brazil was China’s first Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in the hemisphere. On the other hand, Jamaica is the most populous English-speaking Caribbean country, was the second Caribbean country to recognize the PRC, and was the first English-speaking Caribbean country to have a “strategic partnership” with China.2 By contrast, the selection for Minister Tang’s visits is a bit more opaque.
China is a relatively minor export destination for both Mexico and the Dominican Republic, with the PRC just making up 2% of each country’s exports in 2021.3 Moreover, food and agriculture play a relatively small role in these relationships: neither country is among China’s ten largest Latin American and Caribbean suppliers of foodstuffs.4 Though agriculture could become more important in the future, at the moment the DR and Mexico are more focused on exporting minerals and manufactures to China.5
It's impossible to know exactly why senior-level officials prioritize traveling to one country over another. But it’s clear that Tang chose to visit Mexico and the DR just because China wants to maintain strong agriculture-trade relations. If his visits had been focused solely on continuing cooperation with China’s most important food and agriculture trade partners, he would have more likely gone somewhere like Chile or Guyana. Rather, these visits likely show the political and broader economic value Beijing places on its partnership with Santo Domingo and Mexico City.
Politics and Society
A PLA delegation visited Peru to discuss possible confidence-building measures, joint military exercises, and training programs.
In a sign that the Sino-Argentine relationship is still functioning at the working level despite high-level tensions, Beijing’s ambassador met with the new mining minister and accepted an invitation to visit the mineral-rich state of Catamarca.
The Canadian government announced that it would not provide government grants to researchers working on sensitive technologies with links to Chinese universities.
Guyana’s Prime Minister, Mark Phillips, met with the heads of the Guyana/China Friendship Society (GCFS) this past week.
The new Ecuadorian foreign minister met with the Chinese ambassador in Quito, in part to affirm the new administration’s commitment to the One China Principle.
Investment, infrastructure, and finance
Auto parts supplier Shandong Golden Empire Precision Machinery Technology Company announced a new Mexican subsidiary as part of its strategy to invest in the country and further develop its local R&D.
The PRC’s embassy in San Jose donated six electric buses to the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE), while China’s vice president announced a donation of 120 ambulances to the Dominican Republic after meeting with a legislative delegation.
El Salvadorian and Chinese officials carried out the first survey of the Chinese-sponsored Ilopango water plant’s construction.
Trade and Technology
Just weeks after a new FTA came into force and the Ortega regime banned the Taiwanese business association, Managua recognized a new PRC-associated Nicaragua-China Chamber of Industry and Commerce.
Honduran shrimp exporters are suffering from their country’s flip in diplomatic relations away from Taiwan. Due in part to the lack of a Sino-Honduran FTA, Chinese state buyers are offering lower prices than their Taiwanese counterparts.
PDVSA’s President and Venezuelan Minister of Petroleum, Pedro Rafael Tellechea, met with Beijing’s ambassador to discuss oil and gas cooperation and implementing previously signed agreements.
A new maritime trade route between Chile and the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, which had previously agreed to at last fall’s BRI summit, opened this week with the shipment of 2,500 tons of Chilean cherries.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister met virtually with St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, with the PM promising to maintain official ties and congratulating the country on its elections.
Belize’s Prime Minister expects that a $33 million contract between Taiwanese firm OECC and the Belizean government for the new San Pedro Hospital will be signed in the next month. The project had previously been announced last spring.
Belizean PM Briceño also discussed his country’s support for Taiwan when meeting with U.S. Special Presidential Advisor for the Western Hemisphere Chris Dodd.
The SimplyHelp Foundation, an NGO, donated a host of goods, including summer shoes, lunch boxes, and sanitation supplies, through the Taiwanese embassy in St. Lucia.
Analysis and Opinion
A new analysis by Margaret Myers, Ángel Melguizo, and Yifang Wang at the Inter-American Dialogue on emerging trends in Chinese infrastructure investment in Latin America and the Caribbean found that Chinese investment and financing is moving away from the large-scale infrastructure projects that once characterized the BRI. Instead, investments and financing are moving in favor of more innovative “telecommunications, fintech, and energy transition” projects. This report was also covered by the Financial Times.
The Jamaica Gleaner wrote in an editorial that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang’s trip to Jamaica was “likely a signal of Beijing reigniting its diplomatic foray into the hemisphere after a few years of seeming caution.” They argue the trip gave Kingston “an opportunity to reassert a sense of independence in its foreign policy and broader geopolitical issues” while also possibly providing new financial flows.
In an interview with El Pais, academic Enrique Dussel Peters argued that it is inaccurate to call rising U.S.-China tensions as a “New Cold War” while also warning about Mexico’s contentious position between the great powers.
China Daily ran an editorial by Argentine academic Patricio Giusto accusing President Milei of having an “erratic” and “misleading” foreign policy, finding that “the new Argentine administration seems to misunderstand what China represents today for the world, and how important it is for Argentina's interests.”
That’s it for now! See you next week.
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This contrasts with how many countries with rougher relations with Beijing (like Japan, the Philippines, and Canada) praised the Taiwanese election within the boundaries of their own One China Policies, riling up the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Though not English-speaking, in 2019 Suriname’s “Strategic Partnership of Cooperation” was announced just a few weeks after the establishment of the Sino-Jamaican “Strategic Partnership”.
Of course, China is still a major trading partner due to its large quantities of its own exports.
Even Paraguay, which lacks diplomatic relations with the PRC, exported more food and agriculture products to China in 2021 than Mexico or the Dominican Republic.
Food and agriculture also make up a relatively small portion of the two countries’ economies, with agriculture only making up 4-5% of each countries’ GDP. Compare that with Chile, where agriculture makes up 11% of GDP and 28% of exports.