First Takes

Bridging Asia and Latin America

By Karen Thornber

Academics, journalists and popular authors are writing more and more in recent years on the interconnections between Asia and Latin America. Asia specialists, Latin America specialists and an impressively increasing number of individuals who have expertise in both regions are focusing on varied types of interconnections: diplomacy, military engagement, and security; trade, investment, and other economic networks; environmental degradation and social conflict; knowledge transfer, cultural interactions and transculturations. They are also exploring the many facets of the  migrations and diasporas that have led to today’s longstanding populations of Asians of Latin American descent and Latin Americans of Asian descent, as well as to today’s steady movement of peoples between the two regions, despite their great geographic distance.

For scholars of Asia, the growing attention to Asia-Latin America inter- connections reinforces the importance of thinking not only across borders within Asia (the primary mission of Harvard’s Asia Center, which I direct) but also about Asia in transnational and transregional global perspective. The Asia Center has already done important work in this area. Most notably, in 2015, it partnered with the Center for African Studies, as well as the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies and East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, to create the Harvard Africa and China Program. Colleagues organized an inaugural workshop on Africa-China interconnections, held at Harvard in September 2015 and featuring panels on Business and Economics, Law and Politics, Global Medicine and Public Health, and Population and Migration. The workshop closed with a screening of China Remix. This award-winning film on African immigrants living in Guangzhou, China, and its focus on three African hip-hop artists striving to forge careers in their new home, humanized many of the complex dynamics between Asia and other regions discussed earlier in the day. It also provided context for other immigrant communities in China, including those from Latin America.

We reconfigured the Harvard Africa and China Program as the Harvard Africa-Asia Initiative in the spring of 2016, recognizing that African communities have been interacting with their counterparts from across Asia for millennia, with China becoming a major presence on the African continent only relatively recently. Joining the Asia Center, the Center for African Studies, the Fairbank Center, and East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law School in this venture were the Korea Institute, Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute, and Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. In November 2017, at the Harvard Center Shanghai, the Center for African Studies, with the support of Harvard’s ten Asia-related centers/programs, spearheaded a two-day conference on Africa and Asia: “Africa-Asia Connections: Bridging Past, Present, and Future.”  Bringing together a diverse array of participants from around the world representing academia and both the public and private spheres, this event featured panels on Relations between Africa and India, Japan and China; Infrastructure, Trade and Industry; Migration and Economic Opportunity; Trading and Industrial Diaspora; and Migration, Trade and Health in the Africa-Asian Relationship; and Africa and Asia: The Way Forward. These panels, and in particular the discussions throughout the conference on the lessons Africa and Asia can learn from one another, made even more apparent the fundamental importance of examining Asia’s relationships with other parts of the world, including Latin America.

The Harvard Africa-Asia Initiative has sponsored a variety of other activities, including a roundtable on “Shared Challenges, Shared Opportunities: Healthcare Delivery in Africa and Asia” in fall 2017.  This roundtable will serve as a springboard for a major international conference in Johannesburg in March 2019 focusing on Africa-Asia interconnections as these related to global and public health. Here too, we also must examine the analagous connections between Asia and Latin America.

Jorge Miyagui

 

Although unlike with Africa, Asia’s known ties with Latin America date back centuries, not millennia, the early success of the Harvard Africa-Asia Initiative suggests just how fruitful a similar collaboration between the Asia-related centers and the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies could be.  It is my hope that this issue of ReVista, featuring an array of articles by some of the most prominent names working on Asia-Latin America interconnections, will inspire colleagues working on Asia and those working on Latin America at Harvard and far beyond to seek out one another and create new collaborations, with the ultimate aims both of providing deeper insights into aspects of Asia-Latin America interconnections that have already received considerable attention and of shedding light on aspects of these relationships that heretofore have been relatively neglected, creating new knowledge and greater understanding as well as policy proposals that would benefit both regions.

 
Karen Thornber is Victor and William Fung Director of the Harvard University Asia Center, Chair of the Harvard Asia Center Council, and Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and of Comparative Literature at Harvard.  She has published widely on East Asian literatures and cultures, the literatures and cultures of the Indian Ocean Rim, comparative and world literature, postcolonialism, and the environmental and medical humanities.
thornber@fas.harvard.edu

 

 

 

From Extraction to Construction

By Cynthia Sanborn

 

I began to study China and Latin America in 2008, quite by accident. While working as a research professor in Peru, I was invited by the Andean office of Oxfam to prepare an exploratory report on the overseas record of some Chinese companies that were starting to invest in mining in this region. Although I had done work on Western transnational firms in this sector, trying to track and understand their Chinese peers was a new challenge, given the distance and language barriers. My first effort was published in Spanish by the Universidad del Pacífico Press in 2009, and to my surprise it sold out quickly. Apparently, quite a few people in Latin America—like me—did not know much about what China was doing here but were keen to find out.

 

Ten years and numerous publications later, I believe that the presence of China is one of the most significant changes in Latin America and the Caribbean in the last quarter century. Japan and other Asian countries have also had impact in the region, but China stands out now for the weight of its presence, the magnitude of its ambitions, and the expectations it has raised.

 

This was not historically the case. For many years, Latin America was marginal to China’s economy and foreign policy. Holding just eight percent of the world’s population, Latin America was considered very far from China and very much in the “backyard” of the United States. For most of us Latin Americans as well, China was a distant source of immigrants (voluntary or forced), arroz chaufa and wonton soup, or Maoist political ideology, but not a country one hoped to visit or do business with.

 

In a very short time, all of that has changed. The most recent period of economic growth in our region was driven in large part by our commodity exports to China, accompanied in some cases by bilateral trade agreements. Since then, Latin American trade with China has increased more than 200 percent, with China replacing the United States as a leading trade partner, the leading market for what we produce, and a major source of foreign direct investment, in traditional commodities and new infrastructure.

 

More countries in the region have switched diplomatic allegiance from Taiwan to Beijing, and most of our leaders are unwilling to comment publicly on China’s authoritarianism and human rights violations. While the Trump Administration in the United States shows increasing hostility to Latin America, China stresses the need to empower developing countries and promote South-South cooperation—and the discourse of our leaders is much the same. In this context, understanding the relations between China and Latin America is essential to understanding our own prospects for development in the years ahead. After two decades of accelerated relations, a small but growing number of academics are asking what the balance is so far—whether engagement with China is deepening our dependency on primary exports or diversifying our options, and how Chinese firms, banks and embassies operate on the ground.

 

China
The presence of China is one of the most significant changes in Latin America and the Caribbean in the last quarter century.

 

Such questions are complicated by the challenges of understanding the Chinese perspective. There are still few Latin American experts on contemporary China, and few Chinese colleagues with expertise on Latin America who do fieldwork in the region and engage with us as peers. Yet Chinese authorities today are determined to change this, by training more people in Latin American studies and promoting academic and cultural exchanges. Some of the new voices from China on Latin America, and vice versa, are included in this special issue of ReVista.

 

China in Latin America: Taking Stock

 

What have we found so far? First of all, our work with Kevin Gallagher and Rebecca Ray at Boston University and colleagues from eight centers across Latin America has shown the impact of China’s huge demand for natural resources. This has indeed led to greater concentration in the extractive industries, and in activities with high environmental risk and high levels of social conflict. Latin America’s exports to China, and China’s investments in this region, have been more concentrated in primary commodities than have Latin America’s economic relations with the rest of the world.

 

In terms of social impact, Latin America’s primary exports—especially minerals—generate less employment than, for example, commercial agriculture, manufacturing or services. As a result, exports to China also produce significantly fewer jobs than total exports from this region. Furthermore, Latin American exports to China use more water and emit more greenhouse gas emissions per dollar of output than our total exports. And both the investments in large-scale mining and in infrastructure funded by China today, represent serious risks for deforestation and degradation in some of the most biologically diverse parts of South America. Although these outcomes are not the direct responsibility of China, they do put to test its commitment to being a socially responsible global superpower, one that is concerned with the sustainable development of its Southern allies.

 

China's companies
China’s companies are an important part of its global power.

 

Considerable diversity exists among Chinese companies operating in our region, even when most are formally state-owned enterprises, recent research has demonstrated. Some are national champions, with considerable access to capital and a stated commitment to the highest standards for corporate social responsibility. Others have little experience outside of China, face difficulties operating in distinct societies, and lack internal policies to mitigate the impacts of their activities. Many do not undertake adequate risk analysis before deciding to invest overseas, resulting in projects that can be stymied by local protest, government bureaucracy or corruption.

 

China’s companies are an important part of its global power, state agencies have developed guidelines for their overseas operations, as well as for the banks that finance them. Yet Chinese authorities do not often have the capacity to monitor their firms overseas, or assure compliance with local norms in diverse locations. As my own research in Peru has demonstrated, from Beijing headquarters there may be a tendency to assume that government-to-government agreements, or encouraging words from el Presidente, are all that is necessary for a successful investment in Latin America, ignoring other warning signs. Chinese embassy staff themselves may be too new in the region, or too busy with other tasks, to do the kind of monitoring on the ground that their counterparts from the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom are accustomed to doing.

 

Of course, the most important step in regulating the performance of companies of any origin is the will and capacity of the host governments. In much of Latin America, our environmental, social and labor norms are more stringent than those in China. We have made progress in legislating ILO 169, the right to prior consultation for indigenous and native peoples, as well as in requiring environmental impact assessments and monitoring firm compliance through environmental ministries or specialized agencies. Most Latin American countries also require foreign investors to contract national workers, respect trade union rights, and share profits in lucrative industries such as mining and oil. Latin American countries have made advances in fiscal and tax transparency, participating in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and other frameworks. Chinese companies, with a few exceptions, are complying with the norms established by Latin American authorities—as long as our government officials insist on it.

And therein lies the catch. As China’s interests in Latin America expand from extraction into construction, its banks have increasingly emerged as an alternative source of finance for major infrastructure projects, ones that our governments eagerly pursue in the interests of improving connectivity and economic diversification. Yet this has also promoted investments with high social and environmental risks, including some that other investors did not want to touch, in what some observers fear will involve reversal of hard-won standards. And the countries with the largest amount of Chinese debt so far—Venezuela, Ecuador—do not have governments inclined to uphold such standards and invest in the long term benefit of their populations. In such cases, Chinese loans have been a curse, not a blessing, facilitating fiscal irresponsibility and reinforcing both their economies’ dependency on oil and their rulers’ capacity to repress dissent.

 

Official Chinese foreign policy doctrine includes the principle of Non-Intervention in the domestic affairs of allied countries. Hence China enters into agreement with all types of regimes, including pariah states such as Sudan and Myanmar, as well as the Venezuela of Maduro and Nicaragua of Ortega. But all loans have conditions. As with most investors, the Chinese prefer projects without competitive bidding, or where their firms are the preferred candidates. Their banks seek to finance Chinese companies, with Chinese suppliers and workers. As with other superpowers, Chinese companies are being encouraged by their government to gain global experience and competitiveness, as part of overall state policy that positions that country for the long term.

 

Given this situation, the role of civil society and the media is crucial. In Latin America we have many non-governmental organizations that defend the rights of vulnerable communities and foment supervision of the extractive and construction activities promoted by governments. Courageous investigative journalists document the efforts of social and environmental activists, and worldwide campaigns are organized against bad practices, creating consciousness and helping to defend truly global standards in these industries.

 

In Peru, for example, combined action by local farmers and ronderos, international human rights and conservation activists, led to the halting of the controversial Rio Blanco copper project, which would create a large open pit mine in a sensitive cloud forest area on the Peru-Ecuador border. In the Peruvian Amazon, action by human rights lawyers and local courts postponed initiation of a new Hydrovía Amazónica, an unprecedented river-dredging project, in order to undertake a formal process of consultation of indigenous peoples along the route. While the project received an initial green light, indigenous leaders and their allies continue to monitor how the project will affect river flows and adjacent ecosystems. Both projects involve Chinese investors.

 

The initially popular Nicaragua Canal, a mega-project awarded by the Ortega government to a Chinese billionaire, was grounded after combined action by local peasants, conservationists, the Nicaraguan Academy of Sciences, and international rights organizations including Amnesty International. Indeed, protests around this project were among the triggers of wider discontent with the Ortega administration.

 

Nowhere has the role of local and transnational civil society been as notable as in Brazil, where natural scientists and economists, indigenous activists, Catholic missionaries and conservation organizations have mobilized concern about their government’s ambitions to further open the Amazon with dozens of new dams and hydropower projects. These include a proposal to build 49 major dams on the Tapajos River and its tributaries, which would not only increase power generation but also facilitate the transport of meat and soy for export to China, and hence accelerate the deforestation that has accompanied such activity. Last year these efforts resulted in a temporary suspension of one of the dams by Brazil’s environmental agency, and more recently the Temer administration declared that hydropower policy need to be reevaluated in the face of such concerns.

 

The Chinese state, its firms and its banks are not immune to these pressures. Grassroots organizations, professionally-staffed NGOs, independent media and other actors not only protest, but also collaborate with democratically elected authorities in order to maintain safeguards that can prevent or mitigate negative impacts. Both civic vigilance and constructive collaboration are essential to resisting pressures to erode hard-won social and environmental protections.

In the years ahead, all of us—academics especially—should increase our efforts to understand our Chinese peers, their institutions and motives. As with all of our foreign relations, we must ensure that these activities not only protect our sovereignty, but also uphold the rights Latin American citizens have struggled to win, improve the quality of life for all of our peoples, and protect the environment for the generations to come.

 

 
Cynthia Sanborn is Vice President for Research and a Professor of Political Science at the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Peru. She has held the William Henry Bloomberg Chair at Harvard University and is a member of the DRCLAS Regional Office Advisory Group. She has dual Peruvian and U.S. citizenship and has lived and worked in Latin America for over 30 years.

Hernan Manrique, a sociologist and research assistant at the Centro de Investigación de la Universidad del Pacífico (CIUP), provided valuable insights for this article based on his own experience in the Amazon.

 

What Connects Two Worlds Apart?

By Guo Jie

 

For much of my academic career, I’d focused on the faraway lands of Europe. But then, about eight years ago, I acted on an impulse to expand my research horizons to the even farther away lands of Latin America. This move received great support from my home School of International Studies at Peking University.I went through a period of intensive Spanish language training and then read broadly about the region. My understanding gradually broadened further through communication with colleagues and friends from Latin America. After 2013, I ventured to visit more than twelve countries in the region and with each trip, my curiosity grew stronger.

 

Japan and Latin America
The economic trade between Japan and Latin America is the main pillar of its relationship.

 

I began to notice how different Latin America was from Europe. While in Europe diversity is highly concentrated in small spaces, the opposite is true in Latin America, where a strong sense of identity among different groups prevails even when people might seem quite similar to outside observers like me. The staggering income inequality, complex ethnic relations, changing political culture, tortuous economic development, profound social transformations and broken historical processes all left a deep impression on me. Of course, there are also outstanding works in humanities and arts, as well as fascinating geographical formations and changing natural landscapes.

 

For a scholar from East Asia, exploring Latin America is relatively a rare opportunity given to the physical distance and cultural differences which limit contacts between our two regions. Even when two worlds are far apart, it seems that innate curiosity always drives inquiries into foreign people and objects—but it is never easy to build mutual, in-depth understanding of each other. Even time and space are working against us; winter and summer, day and night are both diametrical opposites in East Asia and Latin America. While relations between the two regions are growing ever closer, I want to take a retrospective look into that process of getting close to each other from the beginning.

 

Research indicates that China and Latin America did not have direct interactions in the written history before modern times. The real contact began at the beginning of the 16th century, after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World and Vasco da Gama opened a new route to Asia. At this point, the main transport channel between Europe and China shifted from land to sea. Relations between China and America began to slowly emerge through trade—with Manila as a hub. Later, in the 19th century, and more specifically between 1800 and 1874, a large number of Chinese contract laborers went to Latin America. Hundreds of thousands of these migrants moved to the region during this period, mostly between 1847 and 1874, the first time large groups of Chinese people arrived there. Four other waves of immigration ensued, with mainly free immigrants arriving on Latin American shores between 1890 and 1930. Another wave followed from 1949 to 1950, mostly made up of either senior Kuomintang officials or of those who sought to open their own businesses. In the 1960s and 1970s, more migrants came from Hong Kong, Taiwan and South East Asia. The background of new immigrants after late 1970s was relatively diverse, with some choosing to make Latin America their new home, while others were bent on reimmigrating to places such as North America (United States, Canada) and Europe. The largest numbers of overseas Chinese are concentrated in South and Central American countries, such as Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Argentina, Costa Rica and Surinam. Most of these migrants are engaged in business, software, manufacturing, construction, the service sector and the resource industry.

 

While people-to-people exchanges have a long history, the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 is a turning point for official and academic exchanges. Post-1949 China-Latin America relations can be divided into three periods, the first between 1949 and 1970. China’s initial interest in Latin America was driven by a shared affiliation with third world liberation movements. After 1959, the situation changed. On January 1, 1959, the Cuban revolution succeeded; in September, China issued a joint communique with Cuba on the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations, Cuba becoming the first Latin American country to do so with the New China. In the context of the Cold War and the aftermath of the Sino-Soviet split, a struggle for leadership of the international communist movement emerged and China began paying special attention to Latin America.

 

After the 1970s, more Latin American countries established diplomatic relations with China, prompting a need for greater mutual understanding. Overall, this first period of bilateral relations was shaped by historical (Cold War) and ideological (revolutionary) factors. The second period of official relations was between the 1970s and the late 20th century. In these decades, the international system went through substantial political, economic and social changes. China and Latin America were experiencing reform and development at the same time. Most Chinese scholars focused on resolving practical problems and they paid most attention to Latin America’s opening up and economic adjustment, comparing it with China’s post-1978 reforms. Other topics that attracted their interest included Latin America’s development strategy, paths and models, as well as social justice movements, democratization, political and ideological changes.

The 21st century can be viewed as the third period of China-Latin America relations. Globalization and market forces, somewhat surprisingly, have tightly bound China and Latin America from two different ends of the world. Economic interdependence and cooperation has reached unprecedented levels. China has already become Latin America’s most important Asian trading partner, and it is actively promoting the integration of the Belt and Road Initiative and the region’s development strategy. In recent years, with the acceleration of China’s economic and social transformation, the country has started paying closer attention to case studies from Latin America on issues such as the middle-income trap, urbanization and inclusive growth. Nowadays, “Latin American Fever” and “China Fever” seem to be on the rise. Any combination of topics related to “ China-Latin America”—from trade to politics, society, diplomacy, history and humanities—has not surprisingly become pivotal for both parties as they seek to jointly develop tighter bilateral relations.

 

Like China, the two other major East Asian economies, Japan and South Korea, are increasingly developing connections to Latin America based on their own historical background and current needs. Japan’s first “encounter” with Latin America was triggered by immigration—the flow of people broke geographical barriers. The earliest record of Japanese immigrants arriving in Latin America dates from 1893, when 132 Japanese plantation workers moved from Hawaii to Guatemala to work on coffee and sugar plantations. As Japan confronted a shortage of land for its workers at the time, it began to encourage immigration to Latin America. The first government-supported wave of migrants went to Mexico in 1897. Two years later, Peru received its first batch of Japanese immigrants. In the early 20th century, Japan sent another batch to Brazil, attracted by its coffee boom. Statistics show that nearly 190,000 Japanese migrants came to Brazil between 1908 and 1941. This trend was interrupted during World War II but restarted shortly after and continued until the 1960s when Japan’s economy entered a period of rapid growth.

 

Meanwhile, the economic relationship between Japan and Latin America became the main pillar of their relations. Japan began to import large amounts of energy, minerals, industrial raw materials, as well as cotton, coffee and other agricultural products. This rapid increase of imports was accompanied by direct Japanese investment in Latin America. During the 1960s and 1970s, more than a quarter of Japan’s overseas investment went to the region, mainly towards the heavy equipment industry. After the oil crisis broke out in the 1970s, Japan’s investment in Latin America expanded to iron ore, soybeans, copper, petroleum, aluminum, pulp and paper and other exports. Japanese loans were also crucial to its relations with the region. However, the Latin American economy experienced turmoil in the 1980s, and Japan experienced stagnation in the last decade of the 20th century, prompting a decline in both Japanese imports and direct investment. Although Japan and Latin America gradually grew apart economically, a new “encounter” took place at that time. Like the first “encounter,” it was also driven by the flow of people, but in the opposite direction. To address increasingly serious labor shortage caused by declining fertility and aging population, the Japanese government amended its immigration laws, allowing overseas-born Japanese to obtain long-term residence permits. Many migrants from Latin America returned to Japan, with the number reaching around 300,000 at its peak.

 

History shows that Latin America has often provided solutions to Japan’s domestic problems. Of course, this relationship is also equally important to Latin America since Japan has played a dual role in providing labor and capital while importing products and natural resources from the region. Japan’s economic recovery in recent years and the overall stabilization of economic development in Latin America, as well as its growing importance in global value chains, have contributed to a new strengthening of bilateral economic relations. Japan has become an observer of the Pacific Alliance, a regional trading bloc aiming at forging stronger economic ties with the Asia-Pacific region, and signed Economic Partnership Agreements with three of the Alliance’s four member countries (Mexico, Chile and Peru). Nevertheless, as Japan’s economic structure has evolved from manufacturing to global supply chain management, its demand for natural resources and imports of large-scale production has substantially decreased; hence, Latin American countries mostly position themselves as attractive destinations for Japanese investment at present. In Brazil and Mexico, the top two Latin American economies, the amount of direct investment from Japan is much higher than that of China and South Korea.

 

Compared to China and Japan, South Korea engaged with Latin America rather late. In the early 1960s, because of its limited land and a lack of natural resources, the South Korean government began to encourage immigration to Latin America; the intended purpose of this policy was primarily to target land development on the continent. In 1962, South Korea implemented the overseas emigration law, with the first 103 Korean migrants setting off to Brazil. Many of them were urban middle-class, including businessmen, military officers and doctors. From then until 1968, before the Brazilian government banned agricultural immigrants, four waves of Koreans went to Brazil. Argentina was another destination for agricultural immigrants. In October 1965, 78 Korean immigrants arrived in Buenos Aires. Between 1970 and 1977, about 200 more Korean families moved to Argentina. Many of these migrants aimed to develop land but they were unsuccessful in both Brazil and Argentina. They lacked experience, funds, agricultural knowledge, as well as necessary skills and facilities. Local production conditions were different and the new countries’ agricultural policies were unstable. Faced with failure in the countryside, most agricultural migrants then settled in urban areas.

 

Korean migrants who came to Latin America after the 1980s were mostly investors, mainly concentrated in the fields of retail and wholesale clothing production. At present, about 100,000 Korean migrants live in Latin America, around half of them in Brazil with other relatively large communities in Argentina, Mexico, Guatemala and Paraguay. The overall number of these migrants remains stable, but their mobility within Latin America is high. Such movements are mostly driven by economic or business incentives, but cultural values, religion, family and social connections are also important factors. In addition to immigration, two other factors have attracted South Korea’s attention towards Latin America. The first stemmed from concern about South Korea’s domestic politics—many of its scholars researched democratization processes in Latin America. They used the replacement of military regimes with democracies as an insightful point of reference. Until now, South Korea’s Latin American scholars demonstrate a high degree of concern exists about issues related to Latin American political development. The second factor relates to the Korean business community; Latin America is both a key exporter of raw materials and a lucrative and rapidly developing export market. Since the 1990s, bilateral trade volumes have grown tremendously. Similar to the trade framework between China and Latin America, South Korea’s commerce also primarily involves imports of commodities, including iron ore, energy resources and agricultural products, while exporting manufactured products. Most of its exports are vehicles and auto parts, followed by electrical machinery, mechanical appliances, optical and medical equipment, steel and others. To further facilitate trade and ensure a steady supply of natural resources, South Korea has signed Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with Chile, Peru and Colombia since 2004, and concluded FTA negotiations with six Central American countries (Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala) in 2016.

 

South Korea’s direct investment (FDI) in Latin America has increased significantly in the past 30 years, and now accounts for more than one-tenth of its total FDI in the world. Most investment was in the manufacturing and mining industries, with Brazil, Mexico and Peru as the main destinations. At present, electronics is a key area of South Korean investment in Latin America, with Samsung and LG the two major investors. Most recently, direct investment in the automotive industry has also grown rapidly, led by Hyundai and Kia. South Korea’s investment in Brazil is mainly market-seeking. Investments in Mexico are driven by its proximity to the United States, contributing to global value chain cooperation. Unlike with Brazil and Mexico, South Korea’s engagement with Peru is mostly focused on energy and mining.

 

Thus, immigration and economic cooperation have long been two main pillars of East Asian relations with Latin America, and will continue to play an important role in the future. Meanwhile, with continuing globalization and the deepening of mutual exchange, the ties between the two regions will inevitably expand from the flow of people, goods and capital to other areas, influencing politics, culture and historical processes at large. While the Pacific Ocean will always separate East Asia and Latin America, our peoples are growing closer. Former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet once shared a childhood fantasy, stating that if Chileans keep digging down in the ground, they will eventually reach China. For a long time, geography has prompted us to see each other merely as exotic, mythical and magical places. However, reality is sometimes only one step away from magic. East Asia and Latin America are still far away, yet closer than ever before and I believe that there are more wonderful exchanges to come between us in the future.

 

 

 
Guo Jie is an associate professor with the School of International Studies at the Peking University, China.
Email: angel_pku@hotmail.com;
guojie@pku.edu.cn
 
Special thanks are due to Professor Nobuaki Hamaguchi (Kobe University) and Professor Chong-Sup Kim (Seoul National University) for sharing information on Japan and South Korea in our forthcoming book (Cutting the Distance: Benefits and Tensions from the Recent Active Engagement of China, Japan, and Korea in Latin America, Springer, 2018/2019)