China Vice-President Xi Jinping arrived in Chile Thursday to forge closer ties with the nation that has branded itself as China's gateway to Latin America.
Xi is scheduled to meet Chilean President Sebastian Piñera and sign a long list of bilateral agreements since China has become Chile’s largest trading partner. In 2010, bilateral trade jumped 44.8% to 25.83 billion USD.
It is very important that our country is on Vice President Xi Jinping’s agenda. It's a powerful signal, taking into account that he will only visit four nations on this trip Matias Mori, executive vice-president of Chile's Foreign Investment Committee, told Xinhua News Agency.
Chile is the last leg of Xi's four-nation tour, which has already taken him to Italy, Cuba and Uruguay.
Sun Hongbo, a senior expert on South American studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said besides robust business cooperation, the importance Beijing and Santiago attach to each other is also because of Chile's strong support for China in the past decades, though Chile is possibly the world's most distant nation from China.
Chile was the first South American nation to establish diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China Xi noted in a written speech released after he arrived in Santiago.
Chile was also the first country in South America to recognize China's market economy status and the first to sign a free trade agreement with Beijing, Sun added.
It is a very unique country in the history of China's diplomacy. The political ties have lasted long and are getting even stronger, Sun said.
Sun said compared with other South American countries Chile has focused more on relations with Asian nations. The country has a strong Asia-Pacific sense he said.
Chinese Ambassador to Chile Lu Fan said in an interview with Xinhua on Wednesday that Chile is an important Latin American country that plays a unique role in regional issues.
Sun also said Washington's proposed trans-Pacific partnership, a multilateral free trade agreement that aims to integrate the economies of the Asia-Pacific region, is based on changes in Asia but is also influenced by concerns over the development of China-Latin America relations.
The US wants China's cooperation with the region under its control since for Washington the region is its ‘backyard’. That is a factor that Beijing has to take into consideration when drawing up its Latin American policies.