Annual Report on Latin America and the Caribbean (2017-2018)
To Usher in the New Era of Sino-Latin American Relations by Jointly Building the "Belt and Road"
Abstract: In 2017, Latin America started the process of aligning with the "Belt and Road" initiative. In January 2018, President Xi Jinping proposed the initiative of jointly building the "Belt and Road" between China and Latin America. Against the backdrop, this article proposes some suggestions for accelerating the process and achieving "the consensus of jointly building the initiative". First, Latin America should correctly understand China's economic development strategy in the new era and China's implementation of the “Belt and Road” initiative. China's economic development strategy in the new era can be interpreted as a strategic coordinate, which reflects its open, inclusive and sharing natures. With itself as the fulcrum, China has been promoting the building and international cooperation of “One Belt, One Road” at the domestic, sub-regional, and intercontinental levels. Second, it is necessary to comb the Sino-Latin American overall cooperation from the perspective of “One Belt , One Road”, to sum up the experiences of successful cases such as China-Chile free trade and production-capacity cooperation, and the Phase I of Brazilian Belo Monte energy transmission line. Third, efforts should be made to explore the alignment and cooperative mechanisms for market, capital, and infrastructure. The infrastructure interconnection in the Latin American region can be a priority for jointly building “Belt and Road”. Fourth, it is important to achieve the "thinking consensus" by focusing on the dialectical relationships between labor and capital, government and market, and the state and the world, and fifth, to achieve the “development consensus” by focusing on how to reduce or eliminate structural imbalances in Latin American countries.
Keywords: Jointly Building; "Belt and Road"; Sino-Latin American Relations; The New Era
Latin America Political Situation in 2017-2018: Embracing the Election Year
Abstract: In 2017-2018, the political situation in the region is basically stable and the transition of the government is within the framework of the law, but instability and tension have continued in Venezuela and other countries. The legitimacy of the general election in Honduras has been seriously questioned and serious political clashes have taken place. The public's illusions about the leaders of the traditional political parties have been further dashed, as reflected in the ultra-low support ratings of the current leaders of several major countries. The holding of general elections in the context of weak traditional political parties and the corruption of political leaders is bound to create new opportunities for the rise of rebels or "political laymen". In addition, the 2018 elections in Latin America will be held in the fury of public discontent, and corruption cases across the region will bring uncertainties to the election year.
Keywords: General Election Year; Political Division; Political Corruption; Anti-establishment Faction
Latin American Economic Situation 2017-2018: Weak Recovery and Increasing Marginalization Risks
Abstract: In 2017, thanks to the steady recovery of the world economy, global trade and investment expansion, as well as commodity price rebound, Latin America and the Caribbean ended its recession in the past two years. The regional economy recovered and major macro indicators like inflation and international payments turned better. The three major regional economies showed different economic performance. The differences in regional growth converged, yet at the expense of the consecutive slowdown in Central America. Against the background of macroeconomic improvement, fiscal policy of all countries in the region targeted fiscal stability. Increasing income and throttling expenditure have become the choice of regional policies. Meanwhile, the elasticity and space of monetary policy grew a little bit, playing a certain role in providing incentives for economic growth. However, in view of international comparison, the rate of regional growth is still low, and the risk of being marginalized is increasing. Looking forward to the future, the regional economy is expected to continue its growth in 2018 under the favorable external circumstances. However, due to the increase of external uncertainties, the regional economy is difficult to achieve a strong rebound in the middle and short term, and the differences in internal growth will continue.
Keywords: Latin American Economy; the Caribbean Economy; Recovery; Outlook
Latin America Social Situation in 2017-2018: Bottlenecks in Development, Difficulties in Reforms
Abstract: In 2017, social poverty in Latin America did not change much. Poverty reduction fell into a bottleneck, low- and middle-income groups were at risk of returning to poverty, and there was not enough driving force behind poverty reduction. The slow recovery of Latin American economies did not have a positive impact on employment. Employment difficulties and a decline in the quality of employment were aggravated, but the real wage level rose slightly. Despite the recovery of the regional economy, social spending maintained a moderately tight trend. The problem of social inequality did not improve significantly, and the effect of income distribution on poverty reduction in Latin American countries was gradually disappearing. Remittances hit a record high, mainly due to the steady growth of the U.S. economy and the improvement of the labor market. The corruption was aggravated and became a cancer that eroded the social ethos. Despite the uneven progress of social reforms, they encountered widespread social protests, which reflected the contradictions between the goals of Latin American governments and the expectations of the people.
Keywords: Latin America; Social Situation; Poverty; Employment; Social Reform; Remittances
Latin America International Relations in 2017-2018: Adaptation in Tumultuous Times
Abstract: The main themes of international relations in Latin America from 2017 to 2018 have remained how the countries in the region accommodate themselves to the changes in the global order and in the international distribution of power, especially in the swirl resulting from the interaction between the globalization process and the anti-globalization waves, so that they can more readily manage and solve the problems in their external affairs and on the regional stage, including the relationship with extra-regional powers and the solutions to regional hot issues. In the past year several important bilateral relations between the US and Latin American countries such as those with Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela, and some issues on the regional agenda concerning trade, migration and drugs, as well as the presence in the region of Europe, Russia and China, have all but shown distinct trajectories and characteristics, while at the same time appeared to return to certain traditional patterns of regional international relations. The occurrences in the past year seemed indicative of future developments for the region fermenting new policy trends towards North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, as well as pressing new intra-regional arrangements.
Keywords: Latin America; International Relations; Foreign Policy; the United States; China; Venezuela
Strategic Positioning of China-Latin America Relations amid Dual Economic and Diplomatic Transformation
Zhou Zhiwei, Qi Chuanjun
Abstract: China and Latin America are currently facing the dual economic and diplomatic transformation. Based on the policy adjustments, Sino-Latin American relations have the feasibility of extending the “strategic opportunity period”. In China’s economic and diplomatic transformations, China’s policy toward Latin America mainly focuses on the regional market capacity, potential of productivity cooperation, and global governance cooperation. Meanwhile, the importance of China in the Latin American dual-transformation is reflected in its market demand, investment supply and diplomatic diversification. Therefore, the internal drive of Sino-Latin American relations has undergone important changes. China’s policy toward Latin America embodies greater planning, and its policy instruments are more diversified. At the same time, the initiative of Latin America to cooperate with China has been significantly enhanced. Under such new circumstance, China should deal well with bilateral and multilateral dimensions of cooperation, prioritize economic cooperation, and strategically plan regarding specific country and the economic sector.
Keywords: China; Latin America; Dual Transformation; Strategic Orientation; Community of Shared Future
The Building of the China-LAC Community of Shared Future: The Perspective of Cultural Exchanges
Abstract: At present, the building of the China-LAC Community of Shared Future is increasingly becoming the foothold and fundamental goal of China-LAC developmental cooperation. Cultural building matters much for the China-LAC Community of Shared Future because the former works well as a great sustainer of the latter. Culturally, the building of the Community involves four basic ways, i.e., language learning, cultural promotion, academic exchange and media cooperation. The author also holds it is necessary to promote the building of the China-LAC Mechanisms of Cultural Exchange and Cultural Industrial Cooperation in the long run.
Keywords: China, Latin America, Community of Shared Future, Cultural Building
On the Feasibility of Connecting “Belt and Road” Initiative to Latin America: Based on the Analysis of Historical, Policy and Reality Dimensions
Abstract: Entitled as one of the top national strategies, the “Belt and Road” Initiative and Latin America are connected thanks to historical, policy and reality bases. Historically, Sino-Latin American trade created the “Pacific Silk Road”; in terms of policy, the “Belt and Road” initiative and Sino-Latin American cooperation are facilitated by compatibility in objectives, principles and content; in reality, they have kicked off connection and cooperation in certain fields, and both of them are confronted with similar challenges.
Keywords: “Belt and Road d” Initiative; Sino-Latin American Cooperation; Feasibility
Brazil: Economy Recovers Steadily, yet Political and Economic Challenges Remain
Abstract: Since Michel Temer officially became the president of Brazil in 2016, his ruling journey hasn’t been smoothly as expected. In 2017, although Temer weathered corruption allegations, he hit another new low in polls. Driven by private consumption and exports, Brazil’s economy witnessed a stable recovery with three consecutive quarters of growth. But in the medium term, the economic growth has still been constrained by fiscal deficits and political uncertainties. Corruption investigations have caused political crises continuously, which will delay the reform of the pension system. The two-year economic recession has resulted in a rebound in poverty and unemployment, which couldn’t be changed easily in the short term. With protectionism revival in the US and Europe and globalization suffering setbacks, promoting the diversification of foreign relations is still a priority for the Temer government. Party politics has entered another round of differentiation and re-organization in the coming 2018 presidential election of Brazil. The political struggle will be inevitable.
Keywords: Michel Temer, Economic Recovery, Corruption, 2018 President Election
Mexico: Presidential Elections to Proceed amid Domestic and Foreign Challenges
Abstract: President Enrique Peña Nieto's low approval ratings have reflected the perception that his government will remain weak during the remainder of his term; and presidential elections in July 2018 will dominate politics. It is estimated that its GDP growth rate was 2.2% in 2017, which is higher that the regional average level but lower than that in previous year. A lack of momentum in the economy has brought uncertainties to NAFTA’s renegotiation. Due to the complicated situation both internally and externally, the Left-wing populism has regained ground. Severe corruption and high rates of crime and violence have posed preeminent challenges. Although two large earthquakes hit Mexico in the year, it is assumed that the broader economic impact will be relatively contained. Under the pressure of the US’s protectionism, Mexico has positively diversified its foreign strategy.
Keywords: Mexico; Presidential and Congressional Elections; Left-wing; Corruption; Foreign Strategy
Argentina: Ruling Party Established its Position, Economy Recovered
Abstract: In 2017, the center-right governing coalition, Cambiemos, won a victory in October's mid-term legislative elections. Argentine political right-wing forces continued to rise. Due to the combined effects of internal and external factors, the economic recovery in Argentina was obvious. The government continued to carry out structural reforms. However, all walks of life had mixed opinions on the reform. While the tax reform was generally recognized, the labor reform was highly controversial. The economic recovery led to some improvements in social indicators, but as the inflation rate remained at a high level and the structural reforms of the government affected people's welfare, social discontentment was still on the rise. Argentina continued to pursue pluralistic diplomacy, pragmatic diplomacy and summit diplomacy, actively developed bilateral relations and sought to enhance its position and role within the framework of multilateral cooperation, showing its confidence and determination to integrate into the world and participate in international affairs.
Key words: Argentina; Macri; Mid-term Elections, Structural Reform; Diversified Diplomacy
Cuba: Struggling in the Face of Internal and External Problems
Abstract: In 2017, Cuba started the electoral process of the 9th Legislature National Assembly of People's Power. Despite the consequence of hurricanes, droughts, the United States’ blockade policy, the deteriorating situation in Venezuela and other internal and external factors, the Cuban economy was improving slowly with the distinguished performance of the tourism sector. The Cuban government continued pushing forward the reform of state-owned enterprises, the standardization of non-state economy and the attraction of foreign investments. The government also paid attention to health and education, as well as the improvement of communication services and passenger transportation services. However, the shortage of commodity and low income level still affected social stability, and the problem of population aging remained prominent. The relation with the United States tended to be tense, that with the EU advanced steadily, and the ties with traditional friend countries were well maintained.
Key words: 2017; Cuba; Election; Cuba-US Relations
Venezuela: Economic Risks Remain a Major Challenge
Abstract: Venezuela saw its GDP shrink for the fourth year running in 2017 and the inflation skyrocketed remarkably due to expansionary monetary policies. Although there was a large increase of oil prices, crude oil outputs in the country continued to drop and failed to improve the economy. Venezuela is expected to contract consecutively in 2018. There were three major elections in 2017, including the constituent assembly, the regional and the municipal elections, which contributed to restoring political stability temporarily in the country. The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) witnessed intensified internal conflicts. The upcoming presidential election is to be a major challenge confronting the country in 2018. As an effort to combat the effects of inflation, the government raised the minimum wage three times in the year. Despite financial pressure, it still gave priority to advancing the Gran Misión Vivienda (GMVV) to improve people’s housing conditions. As a result of rising domestic conflicts, Venezuela faced rising diplomatic pressure from regional countries.
Keywords: Constituent Assembly; Economic Recession; GMVV; Sanctions
Chile: Smooth Change of Regime
Abstract: In 2017, the centre-right candidate Piñera won Chile's presidential election, and the transfer of government from left-wing to right-wing was smooth. The new political power began to rise. The economy was characterized by a deficient aggregate demand and a weak growth, and the government resorted to an expansionary policy. The expansion of investments, promotion of growth expectations, and an economic stimulus will become a priority agenda of the new right-wing government for the next four years. A new round of census started, and the world's largest mining strike broke out. China and Chile signed a bilateral deal on upgrading the FTA. Bachelet expected that Chile will build a bridge between China and Latin America with the Belt and Road framework.
Keywords: Chile; Presidential Election; Sebastián Piñera; Economic Stimulus; China-Chile FTA
Colombia: Peace Agreement Made Slow Progress
Abstract: In 2017, the government declared the conflict officially over, and the Santos administration strived to implement peace accords with the former FARC rebels before his term ends. Progress will then hinge on the outcome of the 2018 legislative and presidential elections. The economic slowdown might have bottomed out, the structural deficit target set under the fiscal rule for the central government was achieved, the deficit on current account shrank, and inflationary pressures eased. The economy is expected to make a gradual recovery in 2018. In social terms, violence occurred frequently, poverty remained the major challenge, and protests exerted pressure on the government. In foreign relations, President Santos maintained a cooperative relationship with the Trump administration; ties with Venezuela were strained by border security disputes.
Keywords：Colombia; Peace Agreement; General Election; Pacific Alliance; Border security
Peru: Anti-Corruption Triggered President Impeachment
Abstract: The keyword in Peru’s politics of 2017 is anti-corruption. The anti-corruption drama extended from the central government to local government, from the opposition to the ruling party, from ex-presidents to the current president. It was reported that Pedro Pablo Kuczynski granted the medical pardon to the jailed former authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori, in exchange of not being impeached by Peru’s opposition controlled congress. However, after the scandal of the political deal was exposed, PPK finally was forced to resign. The economic growth continued, but slower than the previous year. Social governance was to be challenged on the issues of poverty reductions and anti-drug plans. The government continued to promote regional integration with expanding FTAs, and kept positive ties with China.
Keywords: Peru; PPK’s Administration; Anti-corruption; President Impeachment
Bolivia: Morales Sought the 4th Term after 12 Years in Office
Abstract: Evo Morales has accepted his ruling party Movimiento al Socialismo’s nomination as candidate for the 2019 presidential election after 12 years in office, although this runs counter to the 2009 constitution as voters rejected the government’s bid to extend presidential term limits in a referendum in February 2016. The economic growth slowed down in 2017, yet still kept positive growth. Morales’ reforms failed to satisfy the demands of diverse social groups and continued to provoke various social unrests and protests. Morales’ foreign policy focused on cultivating stronger relations with non-traditional partners such as China, Iran and Russia, and sought to pluralize foreign relationships with the aim to combine domestic development needs with foreign strategies.
Keywords: Fourth Term; Slowdown; Pluralization; Non-traditional
Ecuador: The Economy Restored Gradually, the Ruling Party Divided
Abstract: In 2017, the presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Ecuador, the candidate for the ruling party, Lenín Moreno, was elected president. But soon the ruling party divided, the main reasons were the divergence of political and economic policies and the growing contradiction between Moreno and former president Correa. The annual growth rate of GDP was 1% in 2017, which showed that the economy had a restorative growth. The rapid growth of public debt has caused great challenges to fiscal policy. The unemployment rate is low, but the under-employment rate is high, and the labor market needs to be further improved. In terms of foreign relations, the Moreno administration hopes to improve the relationship with the United States and change the hostile attitude of the former government towards the United States.
Key Words: Ecuador; General Election; Lenín Moreno; Correa
Uruguay: Corruption Scandal Ended, Economic Growth Accelerated
Abstract: In 2017, Uruguay’s Sendic made way for the first female vice-president. The former resigned to pay for his irregularities. Pension reform and UPM negotiations became the major challenges for FA coalition. The most notable characteristics of the Uruguayan economy in 2017 were an acceleration of economic growth, a high and persistent fiscal deficit, and a historically low rate of inflation. The security situation was grim. The tensions among the government, trade unions and the business community became the major sources of social conflicts. In 2017, Uruguay had diplomatic frictions with Brazil and Venezuela.
Keywords: Uruguay; Corruption; Pension Reform; Uruguay-Brazil Relations
Paraguay: Parties Preparing for Presidential Election
Abstract: After the failure of President Carter to seek re-election, the division within the Partido Colorado deepened. There are two presidential candidates from this party, representing different political factions. The oppositions are preparing for the election and choosing their own candidates. However, candidates of Patido Colorado are likely to win. Paraguay's economy steadily increased in 2017, higher than the average growth rate in Latin America. Constant social unrest, frequent attacks, cross-border violent crimes expose the most serious national security precautions. Diplomatically, the Carter administration has actively consolidated its relations with Latin American countries and sought trade and investment cooperation outside the region.
Key Words: Paraguay; Partido Colorado; Election; External Relations
Costa Rica: Political Landscape Remained Fragmented, Fiscal and Tax Reform Stuck in the Mire
Abstract: 2017 is the final year of President Solís’ four-year term. Legislative fragmentation stalled further breakthrough in reform programs. In the economy arena, the situation of low-speed growth continued. The inflation rate hit the target range set by the central bank for the first time in more than two years. The fiscal deficit, the public debt ratio and the high unemployment rate were still the three major problems facing the Costa Rican economy. In the social area, the poverty rate and the Gini coefficient dropped again, but the public security situation did not improve. The homicide rate reached the standard of rampant violence for three consecutive years. In terms of external relations, Costa Rica actively participated in global and regional integration, and continued exploring how to deepen its relations with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Costa Rica entered the tenth year, and the relations between the two countries continued to improve.
Keywords: Costa Rica; Political Fragmentation; Fiscal Reform; Unemployment
Nicaragua: Politics Under the Control of FSLN, Economy Continued to Grow
Abstract: The ruling political party of Nicaragua, the National Liberation Sandinista Front, swept the 2017 municipal elections and President Ortega is still the most popular political figure. The economy continued its strong performance with the second-highest GDP growth among Latin American countries. The anti-poverty programs run by the government made great progress in the past ten years. Nicaragua is the 6th most gender equal country in the world and leads the regional rankings. The political and economic relationship with Venezuela was uncertain, and ties with the US were strained. Its relations with Taiwan and Russia became increasingly closer.
Keywords: Ortega; FSLN; Municipal Elections in 2017; Anti-poverty Programs
Honduras: Presidential Election Made Politics Confusing
Abstract: In 2017, both the economic and social policy promoted Honduras’ national development. With the strict macro-economic policy, Honduras ranked top among Latin-American countries because of the continuous economic growth. Some of the economic indicators were relatively higher than the region’s average. Both the crime rate and the homicide rate dropped. Because candidates were controversy about the count of votes, the country was caught in political divisions and social unrest. Honduras maintained close relations with the United States, participated actively in Central-American issues, and made efforts to improve its regional influence.
Keywords: Honduras; Presidential Election; Demonstration; Honduras-US Relations
El Salvador: Ruling Party Powerless to Turn Things Around
Abstract: In 2017, the political situation in El Salvador was stable and the ruling party suffered from low popularity and a weak position in the Legislative Assembly. Corruption was rampant in municipal governments, the Legislative Assembly and the judiciary branch. Nayib Bukele, mayor of San Salvador, broke with the ruling FMLN. The economy was in stagnation and trade deficit widened, but the inflow of remittances showed a robust trend. The homicide rate dropped slightly. After the abolition of the Amnesty Law, the government proceeded to investigate human rights violations that took place during the civil war. The pension reform came into effect. Salvadorians in the US are facing an increasing pressure of deportation.
Keywords: Weak Government; Corruption; Weak Economy; Homicide Rate; Pension Reform; Immigration Policy
Guatemala: President in Governance Crisis
Abstract: In 2017, the president of Guatemala, Jimmy Morales, suffered a crisis in power for corruption scandals and the expulsion of United Nations anti-corruption officials. Under the influence of the crisis, the economic growth of Guatemala slowed last year, the fiscal revenue declined, and the confidence of private investment was damaged. The fiscal tightening policy was successful for two years consecutively, but the financial space was still limited. The rate of inflation was always within the target range, and there was a certain space for monetary policy. The crisis triggered a number of demonstrations, the public's dissatisfaction with the government spread and social instability increased. The expulsion of United Nations officials also damaged the international reputation of Guatemala. Guatemala actively expanded its economic and trade relations with China, which was a highlight in the field of foreign relations in the year of 2017.
Keywords: Guatemala; Governance Crisis; Corruption; Trump Policy
Panama: Diplomatic Relations with China Brings New Opportunities
Abstract: The arrest of Former President Martinelli was a key political event for Panama in 2017, mirroring the two major threads of the corruption scandal and the power struggle in Panama’s politics. All of these are aimed at the 2019 general elections. The economic performance was outstanding with potential vitality unleashed, mainly due to the increase of infrastructure construction and the navigation competitiveness of the newly-expanded Panama Canal. Public security was the biggest concern for the Panamanians. The government increased efforts of rectification and sought international cooperation. The establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Panama made history, providing new and important opportunities for Panama’s faster economic development.
Keywords: Corruption Scandal; Infrastructure; Panama Canal; Security; Establishment of China-Panama Diplomatic Relations
Dominican Republic: Economy Grew Steadily, Political Uncertainties Loomed
Abstract: 2017 is the second year of President Danilo Medina’s second term. Even though Dr. Medina himself, as well as the PLD, emphasized several times that he would not run for the 2020 Presidential Election, Ruling party PLD raised the Open Primaries Initiative, which led to a deepened controversy between PLD and PRM. In terms of economic situation, Dominican Republic remained one of most rapidly developing countries in LAC. The excepted GDP growth, GDP per capita growth and ratio of fiscal deficit to GDP were 5.1%, 3.8% and -2.4%, respectively. CPI was lower than the target rate, the balance of trade deficit was lower than previous year, and the interest rate and foreign exchange rate were all steady. On the social aspect, corruption was the most serious social problem, causing several demonstrations within the year. However, the employment was further improved. Hurricane Irma brought significant damages to the country, yet the death rate was much lower than expected. In the aspect of foreign policy, newly-elected President of Haiti visited Dominican Republic in January and both countries reset bilateral relations in May. In September and December, International mediations to resume on Venezuelan crisis were held in Dominican Republic.
Keywords: Dominican Republic; Open Primaries; Economic Stability; Crisis Meditations
Haiti: Domestic Political Situation Gradually Stabilized
Abstract: In 2017, after two years of electoral process, Haiti finally elected a new president and formed a new government. The political situation gradually stabilized. The economic situation kept steady due to the negative effects of the 2016 hurricane "Matthew" and the positive impact of the 2017 agricultural harvest. The overall security situation was stable, but there were hidden destabilizing factors. Haiti’s relations with the UN and the United States were changed with the withdrawal of MINUSTAH from Haiti and the appointment of Donald Trump as U.S. president.
Keywords: Haiti; Political Stability; Steady Economic Situation; MINUSTAH; Haiti–US Relations
Caribbean Area: Economy Reviving Slowly, Social Problems Severe
Abstract: In 2017, the Caribbean area seized the opportunities for development and made progress. However, the sustainable development still faces challenges. The political situation was stable, and some general elections have been held successfully. Against the background of world economic recovery, the Caribbean economy also developed. But problems such as serious debt burden and lack of innovation ability still existed. Severe social problems such as crime, unemployment and aging cannot be ignored, and the hurricane disaster made a lot of damage. The Caribbean has made great progress in diplomacy. Regional integration was enhanced, and international organizations provided aid to the Caribbean in many aspects. At the same time, the partnership with China is getting closer, and it is to be sure that the cooperation will be deepened in the future.