On March 1st, 2005, ILAS and the Bureau of International Cooperation at CASS co-organized the first CASS International Forum on “Latin American Situation between 2004~2005”. Some senior officials including Cheng Siwei, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress，also Chairman of Sino-Latin American Friendship Association; Li Shengming, Vice President of CASS; Cai Wu, Vice Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee; Qiu Yuanping, Deputy Director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the Central Committee of CPC; and Yang Wanming, Deputy Director of the Department of Latin America and the Caribbean at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, attended the opening ceremony and had speeches. Diplomats including Alberto Rodriguez Arufe, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps of Latin American and Caribbean Countries and also Cuban ambassador in China, Argentine Ambassador Juan Carlos Morelli, Chilean ambassador Pablo Cabrera, Mexican Ambassador Sergio Ley Lopez also attended the forum and gave speeches. More than 150 participants attended the forum, including officials and scholars from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Commerce, the 2nd GSD Department, China Federation of Trade Unions, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, the China Institute of International Studies, the Institute of Contemporary International Relations, National Defense University, Peking University, Nankai University and the University of International Business and Economics, the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC, the General Office, Research Bureau, International cooperation Bureau, Institute of Economics, Institute of World History and Institute of Latin American Studies of the CASS. More than a dozen of correspondents from major news agencies within the country, TV Stations, news papers and magazines also attended the forum. Director of the Bureau of International Cooperation at CASS, Huang Ping, Director of ILAS, Zheng Bingwen and Vice Director of ILAS Jiang Shixue co-chaired the opening ceremony.
Cheng Siwei spoke highly of the significance of the forum in his speech. He said that the forum brought together many experts and scholars on Latin American issues from Chinese research institutions, organizations and people who are engaged in and concern about the continent within China and abroad. It offered an opportunity for in-depth research and exchanges on Latin American issues. The discussions will deepen the Chinese understanding of Latin America, enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the people of Latin America and China, and provide suggestions and comments for the central government to further develop the relations with Latin American countries.
He pointed out that, under the current international situation, China and Latin American countries more and more concern about the friendly cooperation in various fields. He further argues that several issues need to be focused on to develop Sino-Latin American relations: political cooperation between China and Latin American countries have a good political foundation; it is important to strengthen not only the bilateral and multilateral cooperation, but also the dialogue with Latin American regional organizations to enhance political cooperation; economic and trade cooperation between China and Latin America is expanding; there is great potential for trade and investment cooperation between the two sides; Latin American countries have lots of experiences and lessons in their practice to explore their own development models and roads which China could learn from; culture, science and technology exchanges will lay foundation for the Sino-Latin American political and economic cooperation; research on how to promote the exchange in civil society should also be emphasized . He also said that with the joint efforts of government, business, academia and experts from the two sides, the relationship between Latin America and China would have a bright prospect.
Cai Wu, Qiu Yuanping and Yang Wanming analyzed the foundation and driving force of Sino-Latin American cooperation. China has always paid great attention to the relationship with Latin American countries. As China has a sustained and rapid growth of economy as well as overall national strength, Latin American countries generally valued China's status as a great power and concerned about developing relations with China. In recent years, the relationship with China has become the focus of public opinion in Latin American countries. These changes will stimulate scholars to strengthen their practical research on economic and social reform in Latin American countries and analyze the contradictions and troubles caused by the political and economic imbalance and system defects to provide intellectual support for China’s strategic goal to build a well-off society. They pointed out that Latin American countries are still in a transition process of modernization, and research on Latin America should take a global perspective. They also stressed that the two sides should deepen mutual understanding, enhance mutual political trust and multilateral cooperation and promote the relationship to a new stage.
Ambassadors from Cuba, Argentina, Chile and Mexico were invited to have lectures. They introduced the current political and economic situation and foreign policies in their own countries. The Cuban Ambassador H.E. Mr.Alberto Rodriguez Arufe pointed out that China and Latin American countries shared many common strategic interests, and emphasized that the unity of the developing countries could play a very important role in the establishment of a fair and rational new international political and economic order. Argentina Ambassador H.E. Mr. Juan Carlos Morelli summarized the roots of the 2001 financial crisis in Argentina, as well as the measures taken to overcome it. He concluded that reasonable exchange rate policies and macroeconomic balance were the key elements to economic stability and development. H.E. Mr.Pablo Cabrera, Chilean Ambassador introduced the unique "Chilean model". He said that democracy, free markets and social justice were the marks of this model. Mexican Ambassador H.E. Mr. Sergio Ley Lopez evaluated the political and economic progress made in President Vicente Fox administration, and Mexic’s ongoing reform and progress. The four Ambassadors all expressed their wishes to further expand exchanges and explore a stable, sustainable, and long-term development cooperation ways.
Li Shenming, Vice President of CASS, pointed out in his speech on behalf of the CASS as the host, the forum of “Latin America situation, between 2004 and 2005" is the first international academic forum organized by the CASS. It will promote research institutes to organize more international academic forums in the future to discuss some major issues in the international studies. He reviewed and summarized the dramatic and great progress made in Sino-Latin American relations in recent years. In his view, China and Latin American countries are developing countries, and the two sides have similar views on many international issues, especially on some major issues like the establishment of a fair and rational new international political and economic order. Both sides could mutually support and make joint efforts on these issues. As Chinese enterprises go outside,, the importance of the Latin American market could not be ignored. At the same time, China's enormous market provides lots of business opportunities for Latin American companies. Both sides attaches importance to the development of the strategic cooperative partnership, but engagement and understanding are far from the extent they should have been. There still exists much room for cooperation and exchanges, and the cooperation and exchange between two sides will have a bright prospects; China and Latin America countries can cooperate not only in economic field, but also those in culture, science and technology, and resources. Li Shenming said, Latin American countries have achieved remarkable success in the process of economic and political reform, but also encountered some difficulties and problems. He suggested that academia should play a more important role in improving Sino-Latin American relations, and scholars in the Institute of Latin American Studies of the CASS should conduct in-depth research on the experiences and lessons that Latin American countries shared in their economic and social development to make a greater contribution to the healthy development of China's reform and opening.
President of the Latin America Society of China, Su Zhenxing, moderated the speeches in the afternoon. The former Deputy Minister of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee, the honorary president of the Latin America Society of China Jiang Guanghua was the first speaker. He summarized the work and role of the Latin America Society of China, and stated the “Society” should continue to promote the work on Latin American studies, and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the China and Latin American countries, thus contribute more to China's socialist modernization construction process. He also expressed his opinion on the current situation of Sino-Latin American relations and the direction for cooperation.
Deputy director of ILAS, Song Xiaoping chaired the discussion section. Representatives from the CASS, Latin America, Wu Guoping, Xu Shicheng, He Shuangrong and Lin Hua have speeches on the situations in Latin America in 2004 from political, economic, foreign relations and social situation respectively. (1) The political situation in Latin American countries is generally stable, but experienced local turbulence; the left-wing forces in Latin America rised. The main factors that affect the political situation in Latin America include: slow economic development, the aggravated impoverishment, inequality in income distribution, social polarization; failures of government policy and military intervention in politics; intervention of the United States and so on. (2) The Latin American economy in 2004 shows signs of an overall recovery. The economic situation is better than expected: economic growth has accelerated, macro economy remained stable, and export had become the main driving force of economic growth. However, there were still some problems: structural problems in economic are still prominent, with no significant increase in domestic demand; capital outflows were more than inflows; debt pressure was not released; social tensions caused by increasing unemployment, decreasing real wages and intensified impoverishment have not been alleviated. Factors thatl affected the economic trend in Latin America included: the change of foreign investment scale, prices of traditional export products in the world and the Latin American foreign exchange earnings, the changes of the external economic environment, policy dilemma in economic choices etc. (3) In 2004, the relationship among Latin American countries developed steadily and cooperation has been strengthened; there was an sinificant trend of diversified foreign policy; tensions appeared in the relationship between some countries and the United States; steady progress was made in the diversification of relations with the countries of the Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa; China's rapid economic growth continues to draw Latin American exports and investment . (4) The social development indicators of Latin American countries in 2004 were improved. Poverty was reudced slightly, but the situation was quite different from country to country. The economic recovery has led to a positive direction for labor market, but the problem has not been solved completely; intense social unrest or social conflict happened in some countries; social movements against neo-liberalism and globalization were ongoing. Scholars had in-depth discussions on the above mentioned issues.
Deputy Director of ILAS, Jiang Shixue summed up the discussion. He pointed out that participants of the forum had a new and more profound understanding of the following questions through the discussion: (1) it was proved that the Latin American political trend was turning left; (2) the political situation in Latin America were stable in general but with some local turbulence; (3) the economic situation in Latin America was still largely constrained by external factors; (4) cooperation among Latin American countries was strengthening ; (5) the relationship between Latin American countries and the United States experienced with struggle and cooperation; (6) social problems in Latin American countries were prominent and it was hard to solve them. He also emphasised on the need to strengthen research on some issues in the future: (1) why had Latin American political situation maintained the long-term pattern of the overall stability with the local turbulence? (2) What kind of internal constraints in economic development had changed in Latin America since the 1990s? (3) How did the governments, politicians, the public, various NGOs, business of Latin American countries, exactly think of China? (4) What was the mainstream of Latin American country's relations with the United States? More cooperation than confrontation or not? and why? (5) On the one hand, the social problems of Latin American countries beceme more and more serious; on the other hand, the political situation in Latin America had remained basically stable. What was the relationship between them? Jiang said that because time was limited, scholars did not discuss the issue of Latin America’ strategic position and he hoped that more attention should paid to this topic in the future.
In recent years, China and Latin American countries exchanges were frequent, and various forms of dialogue and consultation mechanisms have become increasingly active, and political mutual trust was increasing. In November 2004, Chinese President Hu Jintao had a official visit to Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Cuba. At the end of January 2005 and early in February, Vice President Zeng Qinghong visited Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica. Those visits promoted bilateral relations between China and relevant countries, and many important exchanges and cooperation agreements were signed, so as to drive the Sino-Latin American relations into a new stage. The forum was held under this background.
The forum is the largest academic conference ever organized by Latin American academia of China and has achieved fruitful results. It pushes Chinese Latin American academia to serve better for policy making from a strategic perspective.