Chinese officials and experts on Thursday defended the country's growing economic cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries, saying bilateral ties are based on fair and mutually beneficial principles with no strings attached, as US officials plan to use an upcoming summit of the Americas to warn against Chinese involvement in the region.
In an interview with Reuters on Thursday, Chinese Ambassador to Peru Jia Guide said China's economic policies toward LAC are purely business and that China does not interfere in LAC countries' internal affairs.
"Not interfering in the internal affairs and not attaching any conditions to other countries are our basic principles," Jia said in the interview, according to a statement on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Peru. "We despise the carrot-and-stick [approach]."
China-LAC economic ties have greatly improved in recent years, with bilateral trade and Chinese investment in LAC countries rising fast.
In 2017, China-LAC trade rose 18.8 percent year-on-year to $260 billion, Jia said. Chinese investments to LAC rose 115.9 percent year-on-year to $27.23 billion in 2016, latest available data showed.
Trade and Chinese investments brought tangible benefits to LAC countries, said Bai Ming, deputy director of the Ministry of Commerce's International Market Research Institute.
"Trade with China provided more opportunities for agricultural products and raw materials from Latin America, and Chinese investments have helped build power plants, railroads, telecommunications and other key infrastructure," Bai told the Global Times on Thursday.
Chinese investments in Latin America have created a total of 1.8 million jobs in the region, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a press conference in March, while painting China-LAC cooperation as "developing countries helping each other and supporting each other."
Still, the growing economic ties between China and LAC appear to have drawn the ire of the US, whose officials have stepped up their rhetoric against China in the region, going as far as describing China as a "new imperial power."
At the Summit of Americas starting Friday in Lima, Peru, US Vice President Mike Pence is reportedly planning to urge LAC countries to choose the US over China on cooperation. US Senator Marco Rubio, who will be joining Pence, will reportedly say that Chinese involvement in the region is "unacceptable."
Jia said that it would be "disrespectful" to both China and LAC countries if the US shifts the focus of the summit to China. "Whether or not China's trade policies are effective should be determined by the facts and parties directly involved," he said.
Wang Jun, an expert at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges' Department of Information, said that the US would likely issue "absurd and baseless" warnings against Chinese investment at the summit, but they won't change much.
"This is a routine trick played by the US. It uses big stages like this to politicize fair and normal economic exchanges for self interests," Wang said. "But this is not going to work because each country will weigh their interests rather than listen to a statement from a US official."