China and Mexico. A strategic relationship

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The first commercial contacts between China and Mexico date back to the 16th century. The opening of new maritime routes constituted the most important transpacific route of the time. Originating as an important missionary transfer station between China and Spain, the Manila galleons, also called “China Nao”, linked Asia, America and Europe across the Pacific.

The first ship from China, which arrived in Acapulco in October 1565, was the San Pablo galleon. Since then, this great route not only allowed the establishment of a commercial bridge between China and America. But it had a profound influence on the Sino-Latin American cultural exchange.

Centuries later, between 1884 and 1885, negotiations began with a view to establishing an agreement between China and Mexico, derived from the interest of attracting immigration from the Asian nation. The initiative came from Minister Matías Romero, a distinguished diplomat accredited to the United States. The negotiations that resulted in the first treaty between Mexico and China signed in Washington on December 14, 1899.

In 1910, President Porfirio Díaz ordered the installation of the emblematic Chinese clock in Mexico City, located in the small roundabout on the streets of Bucareli and Atenas. The watch was a gift from the last Chinese emperor of the Qing dynasty, Pu Yi, on the occasion of the celebrations of the centenary of Mexican independence.

In January 1955, General Lázaro Cárdenas visited Beijing at the invitation of the chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong. In his capacity as vice president of the World Peace Council, the former Mexican president met with prominent figures in Chinese political life, such as Prime Minister Zhou Enlai and the president of the Chinese People’s Committee for the Defense of World Peace, Guo Muoruo.

Following the recognition of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the United Nations General Assembly, Mexico and China established diplomatic relations in February 1972, during the government of President Luis Echeverría. The treaty was signed between the Mexican and Chinese permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York.

In 1973, a group of 25 Chinese students arrived in Mexico to study at the Colegio de México. This program was a pioneering effort that allowed several generations of Chinese citizens to specialize in Hispanic language and culture, later becoming diplomats and specialists in Latin America.

In September 1975, the PRC government gave Mexico a pair of giant pandas as a symbol of friendship between both countries and as an exercise of “panda diplomacy.” Sending pandas, as a gesture of goodwill and a symbol of friendship, helped China project a positive image in certain nations. Mexico was the only country selected for this practice in Latin America.

In 1997, a consensus was reached to formalize a comprehensive cooperation association for the new century, achieving a strategic alliance in 2003, which in 2004 took shape in the constitution of the permanent Binational Commission between the two governments. These alliances institutionalized the bilateral relationship and promoted the possibility of exchanges between local governments of both countries. Thus, a growing number of Mexican states and municipalities established relationships with their Chinese counterparts in business, education, art, culture, science, technology, tourism and sports.

Lázaro Cárdenas Batel, grandson of the historic president Lázaro Cárdenas, as governor of the state of Michoacán, executed the Michoacán-China Business Training Program in 2005, through which young Mexican professionals traveled to the Asian country to study the Chinese language, take business seminars and analyze the feasibility of developing investment projects. The success of the Michoacan program stimulated other states in the country to carry out similar projects.

In 2009, the Head of Government of Mexico City, Marcelo Ebrard, and the mayor of Beijing, Guo Jinlong, signed the twinning agreement between both cities, fostering an intense relationship between both capitals. An example is the Mexico City-China scholarship program, coordinated by the China-Mexico Studies Center (CECHIMEX), which for six years invited members of academia, companies, and government to participate with a project of broad impact to be developed in Beijing.

This sequence of events has marked more than 400 years of commercial and cultural ties with China and half a century of diplomatic relations. Currently, China is Mexico’s second trading partner and the first in the Asia Pacific region.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the first president who has not visited China since diplomatic relations were established in 1972. Last November he held his first face-to-face meeting in San Francisco, with President Xi Jingping, within the framework of the Asia -Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum. (APEC) and the tenth anniversary of the strategic partnership between both countries.

The Mexican president called on his Chinese counterpart to reach an agreement to exchange information on the Chinese chemical precursors used for the manufacture of fentanyl in Mexico. This call coincided one month after the creation of the Mexico-China Working Group on Chemical Precursors and Anti-Narcotics Cooperation. At the meeting, for his part, the Chinese president offered to facilitate the procedures to meet Mexico’s request to acquire Chinese household goods, to meet the needs of the victims of Hurricane Otis, on the coast of Guerrero.

According to information from Chinese officials, the Asian country is interested in expanding cooperation with Mexico in finance, infrastructure construction, electric vehicles and other emerging industries (topics that coincide with the strategic axes of the new Silk Road initiative), as well as expanding cultural exchanges between both nations.

Added to this Chinese interest in expanding development cooperation is the recent decision to relocate Chinese companies to Mexico, as part of a broader trend known as nearshoring. In this way, China has intensified the transfer of its production to Mexico in the last year, establishing unprecedented Mexican cooperation in Latin America.

Source: El Universal