by Raimundo Urrechaga
HAVANA, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Latin America needs to open wider to China to forge a "common destiny of development," and also needs to actively participate in international cooperation mechanisms proposed by Beijing, said a renowned Cuban academic.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, Maria Teresa Montes de Oca, director of the Institute of Chinese Studies at the University of Havana, said that cooperation between China and Cuba in projects and on mechanisms initiated by China in recent years should be deepened.
"Latin American countries should open themselves wider to China, and actively participate in the mechanisms it has promoted in the last five years, such as the BRICS grouping Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, the China-CELAC Forum and the Belt and Road Initiative," she said.
CELAC is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. The China-CELAC Forum is a cooperation forum between China and CELAC.
Proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes. It comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
In the interview, the Cuban expert stressed that at the recent BRICS summit held in southeast China's Xiamen City in September, China encouraged the participation of more countries in the mechanism such as Mexico and Argentina, among others.
She also described as "extremely important" initiatives led by Cuba and Venezuela to integrate China into CELAC development projects which later materialized in the China-CELAC Forum.
"There must be awareness of future development of the region by all its leaders and these efforts shouldn't be blocked because of political differences between one government and another. We must think a little further, as China offers the region infinite possibilities for cooperation," she added.
"If as Latin Americans we put apart our differences and don't see ourselves as separate entities, then we'll have the strength to face any challenge and promote joint cooperation with China," she said.
Montes de Oca recalled that over the years, the continent has been considered the "backyard" of the United States with a history of interventions in different countries of the region.
However, she also pointed out that China has a different position and vision towards Latin America. Especially, the country applies its inalienable precepts in foreign policy like respect for sovereignty and non-interference in each other's internal affairs.
"Every year China has greater investments in the continent and cooperation is much greater. Latin America has to look for concrete alliances that promote the development of important infrastructures such as roads, railway, river transport and commerce," she said.
The Cuban academic highlighted the enormous advantages Latin American nations would have in increasing cooperation with China.
"It's a win-win relationship for both sides. China can obtain from our region natural resources and raw materials," she added.
Regarding relations with Cuba, Montes de Oca indicated that bilateral ties are in a great moment, with a "perfect harmony in all sectors."
"We are in a moment of splendor and full economic-trade cooperation between the two countries. For Cubans, China is part of our identity and culture," she said.
The expert said China has offered lots of experience to Cuba and the locals produce a great sympathy for the Asian nation, a characteristic which sets the island apart from many Latin American countries.
"Cuba and China have a way to go together and expand their ties every day regardless of the political and economic context that surrounds us. I look forward to promising times," she said.
In 2016, for the first time in more than half a century, China became this Caribbean nation's top commercial partner with bilateral trade reaching 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, according to the Cuban Bureau of Statistics and Information.