Chinese President Xi Jinping is paying a visit to Latin America, his second tour to this region since he took office last year. The top leader's schedule includes attending the sixth BRICS summit and the China-Latin America and the Caribbean Summit in Brazil, and visiting Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba.
Compared with his trip last year, this year's visit aims at a bigger picture. By fueling up the relationship with major Latin American nations, China is seeking full-scale cooperation with the region.
Latin America has been expected to be as a sustainable booster for the Chinese economy. As a continent with strategic significance, this region is a potential enormous market in China's global pattern of foreign cooperation.
In fact, since 2000, China has been increasingly exerting efforts to forge a robust economic relationship with Latin American countries.
According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, the 2013 Sino-Latin American trade volume reached $261.57 billion, 21 times that of 2000.
Now, China is Latin America's third largest trading partner, and Latin America is the seventh largest trading partner to China.
There are still large potentials for both sides to explore, and the importance of Latin America in China's diplomatic framework will be further highlighted.
Many Latin American countries have also realized that China's strong growth momentum and promising future as a global power will offer them opportunities to develop their own strength. Only by building reciprocal ties with China can they benefit from China's sustainable growth.
However, such an ideal vision doesn't mean both sides will not stumble along the path.
A debate over China being a threat or a partner has been raised in Latin America due to China's unique political structure, extraordinarily rapid economic growth, the current imbalance in the Sino-Latin American relationship, and Latin America's special geopolitical position. This means complex interests are involved in the bilateral relationship between China and Latin America.
The four nations Xi has chosen to visit have solid common grounds with China. Brazil is the first major power in Latin America to build a comprehensive strategic partnership with China. Argentina is China's key source of soybeans and one of the most important business partners. Venezuela is an important investment market for Chinese energy and financial projects and also the biggest market in Latin America for China's project contracts. As for Cuba, both sides have a traditional friendship as it was the first Latin American country to establish a diplomatic relationship with China after 1949.
With their own relationships with China, these countries are expected to serve as examples in this region, as China hopes they will help enhance the ties between China and the other Latin American countries.
Although in late 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry officially claimed that the Monroe Doctrine was no longer applicable in the US foreign policy, Washington will not allow Latin America to go beyond the US traditional orbit of national interests. Latin America will still be Washington's backyard, and it will unavoidably pose challenges to China's growing influence in this area.
Both China and the US should realize the possibility of confrontations in this area, so a strategic dialogue mechanism will be needed. The US should have a clear understanding of China's business-driven presence in this area, which is not aimed at challenging Washington's dominance in the Western Hemisphere. This consensus will help ease the intensity of competition between the two in this region.