The China Signal - June 6
China and Mexico resume air freight shipments; Vaccine diplomacy in Cuba, diplomatic encounters with El Salvador
G’day, and welcome to The China Signal. This week, China and Mexico resume air freight shipments; Vaccine diplomacy in Cuba, diplomatic encounters with El Salvador, plus more. Read on.
Air Connectivity 📦💉
~Paraphrased from Spanish (see full article above)~
On Saturday May 28, Mexico and China resumed direct air cargo connection between the two countries with a flight of the Mexican airline MAS between the city of Zhengzhou (Henan province) and Mexico City, diplomatic sources told EFE today.
The flight is the first to take off this year directly linking China and Mexico for commercial purposes, while commercial passenger routes between the Asian giant and the Latin American country remain suspended from December 2019.
In 2020, 27 flights between Shanghai and Mexico City helped the Mexican government to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic with incoming Chinese medical supplies.
Similarly, between 2020 and 2021, a cargo air route between China and Mexico City operated more than 350 flights “providing coverage to all Latin American and Caribbean countries”, stated the Mexican Ambassador to China, Jesús Seade, as he emphasized this cargo route to be ever essential to connect China with the region through Mexico. (RP)
Chinese Investment 🏦 🏝️
British Virgin Islands 🇻🇬 + Cayman Islands 🇰🇾
*Note: China.org.cn is a Chinese state-sponsored media outlet
China's external portfolio investment assets, excluding reserve assets, amounted to US$979.7 billion by the end of 2021, according to the country's State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE).
…The top five recipients of Chinese investments were China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the United States, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom. (RP)
El Salvador 🇸🇻
~Above for the full Spanish article~
In the framework of the international forum "El Salvador facing Asia-Pacific" (“El Salvador de cara a Asia-Pacífico”), organized by the Asia-Pacific-Latin America and Caribbean Trade and Investment Promotion Center (AP-LAC Center), both Salvadoran Vice President, Félix Ulloa, and Chinese Ambassador to El Salvador, Ou Jianhong, stated their countries’ will to make bilateral relations brighter, especially in agriculture, science and technology, and poverty alleviation trade domains.
Ulloa added that El Salvador is ready to “offer itself as a bridge or gateway for Central American integration”, through which partnering with China is deemed of great importance.
El Salvador switched recognition from Taiwan to China in August 2018. For further background on El Salvador-China relations, see TCS March 26, 2021, featuring research by TCS reader Evan Ellis.
El Salvador is not recognized as one of China’s “strategic partners” in the region, despite President Nayib Bukele’s favorable posture towards Beijing. Given Bukele’s frosty relationship with the US, the El Salvador-China relationship is worth watching. (RP)
*Note: Prensa Latina is a Cuban state-run media outlet. | See above for the full Spanish article.
Following Nicaragua’s diplomatic switch from Taipei to Beijing in December 2021, their first ambassadors have been named. Chen Xi will be the Chinese Ambassador to Managua, while Orlando José Gómez Zamora will represent Nicaragua to Beijing. Chen Xi was most recently China’s Ambassador to Cuba.
One month ago, Nicaragua’s National Assembly approved visa exemptions for Chinese diplomats (see TCS May 6, 2022). (RP)
Public Diplomacy 🤝
~Above for the full Spanish article~
On Friday May 27, China delivered a donation of US$100,000 dollars to support the repair of damages caused by an accidental explosion at the Saratoga Hotel in Havana earlier on May 6 this year.
The donation is "an expression of the friendship that unites both peoples and governments in the common effort to build socialism", declared the Chinese ambassador in the Cuban capital, Ma Hui, to Cuban state-owned Prensa Latina news agency. The hotel, located in central, touristic Havana, had supposedly been destroyed by a gas leak, leaving 46 dead and almost a hundred injured.
Ma Hui, and Cuba’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment (MINCEX), Déborah Rivas Saavedra, also signed a certificate of acceptance of a Chinese donation of 5,000 photovoltaic solar systems and 25,000 LED tubes, destined for houses located in areas with difficult access to electricity service. (RP)
Honduras 🇭🇳 + Taiwan 🇹🇼
A visit from the Taiwanese textile company Makalot Industrial to Honduras highlights the reversal of President Xiomara Castro’s campaign pledge to sever ties with Taiwan during her election campaign last year.
The recognition of Taiwan over China was repeatedly questioned by candidate Castro and the opposition in the past year (see TCS May 14, September 7, and November 19, 2021). However, a clear change of tone was noted on her Inauguration Day and her government’s statement that establishing a diplomatic relationship with China is not a priority for the foreseeable future.
~Above for the full Spanish article~
[During the visit] to Honduras, the Taiwanese embassy to Tegucigalpa highlighted "the enormous potential" that the Central American country has in technical capacity, production experience, highly qualified personnel and the quality of its textile industry. The statement also encouraged Taiwanese companies to invest in different areas of production and development in Honduras.
Makalot Industrial executives held as well a meeting with the local Secretary of Economic Development (SDE), Pedro Barquero, and the Vice Chancellor of Cooperation and International Promotion Affairs, Cindy Rodríguez, where they were informed about Honduras’s investment protection framework, and local governmental incentives to foreign enterprises amongst others. (RP)
Vaccine Diplomacy 💉 + R&D 🧪
*Note: Cubadebate is a Cuban state-aligned media outlet. | See above for the full Spanish article.
As a result of the collaboration between China and Cuba in the biotechnological sector, the first patent for the “Pan-Corona” COVID-19 vaccine was recently filed at the National Intellectual Property Office of China, BioCubaFarma's president, Eduardo Martínez Díaz, informed on Wednesday June 1 through his Twitter account.
The Pan-Corona project is based at a joint biotechnology research and development center operating since 2019 in the city of Yongzhou (Hunan province) and is led by experts from the Cuba's Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (Centro de Ingeniería Genética y Biotecnología, CIGB). (RP)
TCS Intern Opinion: Summit of the Americas
The 9th Summit of the Americas starts today in Los Angeles. The last time the event generated such controversy was the 2005 Summit in Argentina, where Hugo Chavez led a simultaneous “Countersummit” protest against the US-led free trade agenda for the hemisphere. This summit’s controversy is whether the US should invite Latin America’s three autocracies Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. Their violations of the Inter-American Democratic Charter is the main justification for their exclusion. The Venezuelan government was excluded from the 2018 Summit with the same logic.
In response, several countries have reconsidered their participation in protest, alleging the unfair exclusion of these three regimes. Bolivia won’t attend, while Argentina and Mexico’s participation was held in suspense. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian argued that “the Monroe Doctrine has no market in Latin America today” and that the US acts on the principle that “the Americas is home only to the US.” Officials in Cuba were appreciative of these critiques.
Meanwhile, US analysts and media outlets have coloured the Summit as one in which the US needs to show leadership and resolve in the face of growing Chinese influence in the region. These narratives add to a zero-sum game under which a failure of US-led hemispheric diplomacy would be a “boon to China.”
While it is true that China has gained ground in the region, to believe that the priority for US regional policy should be to counter China is a mistake. Instead the Biden administration should focus on developing action plans with regional partners that will target the region’s shared challenges, and not just the inflated domestic threats of illegal migration and a growing China. After all, Latin America as a whole has no interest in countering the US and joining a new Chinese sphere, but rather regional governments are aiming to position themselves in relative equidistance so that they may concentrate on their true challenge: achieving sustainable development to tackle entrenched inequality.
This goal is ultimately well within the United States’ interests, for a prosperous hemisphere needs a growing Latin America. Now it remains to be seen whether the Summit will produce any tangible developments, and whether those will lead to action in the months and years after the curtains draw the summit to a close in Los Angeles this Friday. (IA)