(Belated) Drumroll Please! Top Ten of 2010

˙ Asia & Latin America

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Institute of Latin American Studies (CASS ILAS) published its list of Top Ten Latin American Events of 2010 in the February 2011 edition of its Journal of Latin American Studies (拉丁美洲研究). They are as follows:

  1. 智利创造世界矿难救援史上的奇迹。
    Chile’s historic and miraculous rescue of coal miners.
  2. 海地地震和疫情引发骚乱, 总统选举引发政治动荡。
    Haiti’s earthquake and resulting epidemic of riots, presidential elections initiated political turmoil.
  3. 古巴采取重大经济变革措施, 更新! 社会主义经济发展模式。
    Cuba’s adoption of important economic reform measures and “new socialism” economic development model.
  4. 秘鲁著名作家马里奥, 巴尔加斯, 略萨荣获2010年诺贝尔文学奖。
    Peru’s famous writer Mario Vargas Llosa wins the 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature.
  5. 拉美经济在经历国际金融危机之后强劲复苏。
    Latin America’s economy experiences a strong recovery after the financial crisis.
  6. 中拉关系取得新进展。
    New progress in China-Latin America relations (i.e. increases in trade, Chinese FDI, and relations mechanisms).
  7. 墨西哥贩毒集团暴力抗拒缉毒的趋势愈演愈烈。
    Intensification of Mexico’s drug-related violence.
  8. 罗塞夫开启巴西女性参政新时代。
    Rousseff begins a new era for female participation in Brazilian politics.
  9. 联合国气候变化大会在坎昆召开, 193 个国家达成协议。
    United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Cancún, 193 countries reach consensus.
  10. 厄瓜多尔发生骚乱, 警察一度扣押总统。
    Riots take place in Ecuador, police detain the president on one occasion.

A few thoughts:

  1. Although many Chinese joyfully celebrated Chile’s rescue of its trapped Copiapó miners in 2010, the Chile experience was embarrassing for Beijing. It shed an unfavorable light on China’s mining safety record and accident death toll. While following the Chile story, Chinese “netizens” posted comments criticizing China’s safety standards and concern for mine employees. Despite reports of stricter safety regulations, China has yet to significantly improve mine safety. According to the China Daily, four large mining accidents took place in the past fifteen days.
  2. China’s response to Haiti’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake received both praise and criticism from the international community. The Chinese rescue team was among the first to reach Haiti, but was criticized for reportedly leaving shortly after rescuing Chinese citizens. CASS scholars include riots and turmoil in their account of the Haiti disaster. Haiti’s post-quake experience stands in stark contrast to the relative calm that followed China’s 2008 earthquake in Sichuan. Devastation was widespread and some Chinese (including famous dissident Ai Weiwei) voiced outrage regarding faulty construction of public buildings, but turmoil and rioting were virtually non-existent.
  3. Questions remain as to whether Cuba is currently or will ever implement the sort of broad-based market reforms that were employed by Deng Xiaoping in the early 1980s and are associated with the so-called “China model.” Cuba’s recent privatization efforts can certainly be considered market-friendly. Will “new socialism” mean “socialism with Cuban characteristics”?
  4. Mario Vargas Llosa was in Beijing in June (four months after the publication of this list) for a nine-day tour at the invitation of the CASS Foreign Literature Institute. During his visit, the famous writer condemned authoritarianism, stating that “a dictatorial and authoritarian government corrupts all society.” For obvious reasons, these comments were not reported in official Chinese news sources. Llosa was also a friend and proponent of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, who much to China’s chagrin, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Considering his background and ties to Liu, Llosa’s mention in this list indicates an attempt on the part of CASS to affirm China’s openness to differing (and even anti-authoritarian) opinions — just not among Chinese citizens.
  5. Latin America’s post-crisis recovery is attributable in large part to China’s demand for its resources. China is also increasingly outcompeting Latin American manufactures exports around the world. As countries like Brazil become reliant upon high-priced commodities exports, concerns regarding deindustrialization and a potential “resource curse” abound. Sound macroeconomic, industrial and education policy are necessary for sustained economic growth.
  6. China’s presence in Latin America certainly increased in 2010. According to CASS statistics, trade between China and Latin America reached $165.4 billion in 2010, an increase of 52.47% over the previous year. Chinese foreign direct investment in Latin America also increased. Although non-official exchange remains limited, Chinese and Latin American leaders have maintained frequent high-level visits. Vice President (and predicted future President) Xi Jinping visited Cuba, Uruguay, and Chile in June, for example. Concerns persist, however, regarding China’s ambitions and growing economic influence in the region.
  7. Dilma Rousseff’s visit to China in April, aimed at boosting trade and economic cooperation between the two BRICS powerhouses, was considered successful by most all accounts. The Brazilian president secured multi-billion dollar trade agreements, including the sale of regional Embraer jets to Chinese airlines. Brazil’s president refrained from discussing China’s renminbi devaluation. Though a devalued yuan threatens Brazil’s manufactured exports, Rousseff was reluctant to include the highly sensitive currency issue on her agenda, especially in advance of the April BRICS summit. Chinese press remarked upon her “pragmatic” nature and status as the first female president of Brazil. One quick look at China’s politburo suggests female participation in high-level Chinese politics will be a longer time coming.
  8. Generally speaking, China was praised for its performance at the 2010 Cancún Conference. The Cancún experience is often referenced in China as evidence of the country’s commitment to working collectively on climate change and other global issues.

While this list isn’t particularly surprising (with the exception, perhaps, of the Llosa selection), one can be certain that Chinese are constantly comparing (whether in the blogosphere, academic settings, or political circles) the economic, political, and social experiences of Latin America (and other developing countries) with those of China. Though maybe not intended as such, these top ten events provide much in the way of contrast between China and Latin America, possibly highlighting China’s much-trumpeted “social stability” (社会稳定) and “harmonious development” (和谐发展).

One other thing is certain: China’s establishment of an institute to analyze Latin America and produce a list of this sort is in itself applaudable. Latin America must work to create equivalent China studies centers.