Monday, October 5, 2009

China Issues First White Paper on Latin America

Defense News


China Issues First White Paper on Latin America

By Wendell Minnick

TAIPEI, Taiwan - China has issued its first policy white paper on Latin America, including sections on political, economic and military issues.

The government-run Xinhua News Agency released the full text of the policy paper on Nov. 5, just 10 days before Chinese President Hu Jintao's planned trip to the U.S. to attend the G-20 summit on the financial crisis.

After the summit, Hu will conduct state visits to Cuba, Costa Rica and Peru. Hu also will attend the 16th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting from Nov. 22-23 in Lima, Peru.

Regarding defense and security, the paper looks at three issues: military exchanges and cooperation, cooperation on judicial and police affairs, and nontraditional security issues.

The paper said it would continue to "actively carry out military exchanges and defense dialogue and cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean countries," including mutual visits by defense and military officials. Personnel exchanges also would be increased. Exchanges will include military training, personnel training and peacekeeping.

"The Chinese side will, as its ability permits, continue to provide assistance for the development of the army in Latin American and Caribbean countries."

Regarding judicial and police issues, intelligence and technological exchanges will be strengthened, "with bilateral and multilateral exchange mechanisms put in place." Non-traditional security issues will include exchanges and cooperation on "combating terrorism, so as to jointly improve the capacity to respond to nontraditional security threats."

There have been concerns raised over China's interest in Latin America, thought mainly focused on energy resources such as oil, gas and coal. China has agreed to sell arms to Venezuela, whose leader, President Hugo Chávez, made his fifth visit to China in late September to make oil and arms deals.

During the visit, Chávez described himself as a "Maoist" and signed an agreement to procure 24 Hongdu K-8 trainers in 2009. There have been some discussions to procure Chinese-made Harbin Z-9 helicopters and Chengdu J-10 and FC-1 fighters. However, not everyone is convinced China's new policy paper or improved military relations with Latin America are a significant threat to the U.S.

"Nothing in the document should alarm or trouble the U.S., though it should be a wake-up call that Washington risks missing attractive opportunities in Latin America," said Michael Shifter, vice president for policy and director of the Andean program at the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue.

"There is nothing surprising in the policy paper, and it does not contain many specifics, but it does set out in general terms a framework for what the Chinese government is doing and plans to do in the region," Shifter said. "It means they intend to be an important actor over the longer term, and not just on trade and investment, but on political and security questions."