by Luis Rojas
MEXICO CITY, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- It is incomprehensive to track Latin America's progress in recent years without taking into account China's participation, even in difficult times, said experts.
According to a report by the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, Latin America and the Caribbean had deepened their commercial exchanges with China after the 2008 financial crisis, despite other partners reducing their presence in the region.
China's growth has been based on building closer ties with partners, especially in South America, said Jose Luis de la Cruz, director of Mexico's Institute for Industrial Development and Economic Growth.
"The impact of China's trade relations, especially with South America, has been very positive," the expert said.
The Inter-American Development Bank calculated that total exports from the region grew around 13 percent in 2017, to reach around 985 billion U.S. dollars, in a large part thanks to the Chinese demand.
According to statistics from Chinese customs, bilateral trade between China and Latin America and the Caribbean stood at 260 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, up 18.8 percent over 2016.
Gao Feng, spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, said in a recent press conference that China is diversifying its investments in the region. Between 2004 and 2010, investments in mining and energy represented 42 percent and 18 percent of the total respectively. Between 2011 and 2017, this lowered to 20 percent and 6 percent.
Sergio Martinez, a researcher at the China-Mexico Studies Center at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Xinhua that "China is not forgetting its production abroad. It is tending to both markets, internal and external. Chinese presence will continue to be felt here for a long while."
However, China's participation in the region is not only felt through trade.
A recent study by RED ALC-China, an academic network of studies on China in Latin America and the Caribbean, said that in the last two decades, China enhanced its cooperation with the region "in practically all fields imaginable."
It cited the fields of defense, science and technology, as well as culture and academia, among others.
Ricardo Barrios, member of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank, said that in the recent China-CELAC Forum in Chile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that close to 4,000 Latin American and Caribbean professionals had recently visited China for training and educational purposes.
"I feel these numbers are only going to rise in the next few years," said Barrios.