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Xi's four visits to Latin America raise China's profile

2014-07-18 11:04 People's Daily Online Web Editor: Yao Lan

20 years ago Latin American people wondered whether Chinese men still wore pigtails; today China has become their second largest trade partner.[Special coverage]

Chinese president Xi Jinping arrived in Brazil on his four-nation visit to Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba on July 14, 2014 . Back in the 1960s and 1970s, the Thoughts of Mao Zedong used to influence the leaders of these countries, and yet understanding between the ordinary peoples of China and Latin America remained rudimentary due to geographical distance and language barriers. The recent rise of its economy has raised China's profile in Latin American countries.

Traditional impression

Latin American people wondered whether Chinese men still wore pigtails

According to Xinhua, the works of Mao Zedong used to influence a generation of Latin American leaders, including former Venezuelan president Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías, former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Nevertheless, understanding among the common people was minimal. Former Chinese ambassador to Ecuador, Cuba and Argentina Xu Yicong has said that the main difficulty he encountered there was the limited understanding of China among Latin American people. Xu was often asked whether Chinese men still wore pigtails when he was ambassador to Argentina in 1997. "My major challenge was to help Latin American people and their media to get a better understanding of China", he says. "But the situation is now much better."

Political exchanges

Improvement of Sino-U.S. ties added momentum to the development of China, Latin America relations 

Cuba was the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic ties with China in 1960.

Former Chinese ambassador to Costa Rica Li Changhua said that Latin America had long been seen as "America's backyard". China's relations with Latin American saw little progress due to U.S. influence during the cold war era in the 1960s.

Li Changhua said that many countries might have been willing to establish relations with China. But they had to follow the U.S. line, and only when America changed its attitude were they able to follow.

After China recovered its legitimate seat in the United Nations, and following Kissinger's secret visit to China, many Latin American countries established diplomatic ties with China, including Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. Of 33 Latin American countries, 21 have now established diplomatic relations with China, and most of the 12 who have not are in Central America.

In 1990, the then Chinese president Yang Shangkun paid state visits to Mexico, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, the first time that a head of China had visited Latin America.

President Xi Jinping visited Latin America when he was vice president in 2009 and 2011.

In 2013, Xi paid state visits to Trinidad & Tobago , Costa Rica and Mexico. Xi's current trip to Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba will be his fourth visit to Latin America.

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