Since the turn of the 21st century, China has become an increasingly important actor in Latin America, especially economically. The value of items traded in 2013 was 24 times that of 2000, marking a rapid expansion of economic exchange between China and the region.1 Chinese investment in Latin America has also shaped relations; in 2015, the Chinese President promised investing $USD 250 billion in Latin America over the course of a decade.1 Now, relations between China and Latin America have deepened, moving beyond economic matters to include elements of cultural exchange.
In late January, the Chinese Ministry of Culture announced that the China-Latin America Exchange Year will start at the end of March.2 The idea for this exchange came to Chinese President Xi Jinping when he was attending a Summit in Brasilia in 2014.2 China Daily called this exchange the largest year-long cultural exchange program between the nation and the region, with 30 Latin American and Caribbean countries participating.3 The exchange will begin with a ceremony in the Beijing Tianqiao Art Center featuring performances by artists from countries such as Cuba and Peru, and there will be a Latin American and Caribbean Arts Festival in Chinese cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Guangdong, and Shenzhen.2Additionally, this program will include a plethora of activities such as performances and exhibitions as well as academic and artistic exchanges. There will also be a closing ceremony in November in a Latin American or Caribbean country, marked by an official visit of Chinese leaders.2
Lang Lang, a lauded Chinese pianist, will be the image ambassador for the exchange traveling to Latin America in August to perform and give lectures.4 In regard to the program, Lang has stated, “It’s very meaningful for me to be the image ambassador of the culture exchange year. I will try my best to contribute to the cultural exchange and friendship between our peoples… The passion and love for music and the life of the Latin American people left a deep impression on me, which also comforted me when I was tired from my tight schedule during my tour of Columbia, Mexico, Chile and Peru in 2013.”4
Overall, this exchange is significant because it shows that relations between China and Latin America have evolved and are deepening. This exchange is also significant because it focuses on interchanging of cultural elements. It builds upon the foundational economic relations that China has already demonstrated by establishing itself a leader of trade and investment in Latin America and the Caribbean. China’s “going out” foreign policy is designed around five key focus areas: trade, finance, infrastructure, policy coordination, and people-to-people relations. Now that China has focused on trade, finance, and infrastructure, it appears that China is moving beyond these elements to create more cross-cultural communications and people-to-people interactions.
1. Gonzalez, Elizabeth. "Infographic: China-Latin America Trade." Infographic: China-Latin America Trade. AS/COA, 9 Jan. 2015. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. Available at: <http://www.as-coa.org/articles/infographic-china-latin-america-trade>.
2. "China Year of Cultural Exchange with South America." CCTV News. N.p., 27 Jan. 2016. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. Available at: <http://english.cntv.cn/2016/01/27/VIDEAOmcTWX4ZSpHc2AYXMMc160127.shtml>.
3. Barasa, Godfrey. "Cultural Exchange Year to Improve China-Latin America Relationship." Yibada. N.p., 29 Jan. 2016. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. Available at: <http://en.yibada.com/articles/101553/20160129/cultural-exchange-year-imp....
4. "Year of Culture Exchange to Boost China-Latin America Ties." China Daily USA. N.p., 27 Jan. 2016. Web. 29 Feb. 2016. Available at: <http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/culture/2016-01/27/content_23274795.htm>.