China’s Push Into ‘America’s Backyard’

thediplomat_2014-02-07_19-47-14-386x262The United States has been quite vocal about its “pivot to Asia,” but as Washington seeks to further its influence in the Asia-Pacific, China has been quietly upping its own importance to Central and Latin America. Now China is making a push to further its engagement with countries in the Western Hemisphere, as evidenced by the announcement of a new dialogue mechanism. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which met in Cuba from January 28 to 29, adopted a statement announcing the establishment of a China-CELAC Forum. CELAC itself is a fairly new organization, having been established only in 2011, yet it has the potential to be an important political force. Last year, with Cuba as the rotating president, the organization focused on regional cooperation in education, anti-corruption, and natural disaster relief. CELAC also declared Latin America a “peace zone,” with countries agreeing to solve their differences peacefully, through dialogue. Cuban President Raul Castro, who headed this year’s CELAC summit in Havana, called CELAC “the legitimate representative of the interests of Latin America and the Caribbean.” The China-CELAC Forum, according to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei, is designed to provide “an important platform for the growth of bilateral comprehensive and cooperative partnership featuring equality, mutual benefit and common development.” More
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