Mexico and China – another North in disguise?

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Chinese President Hu Jintao (2nd L) holds talks with Mexican President Felipe Calderon Hinojosa (4th R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, July 11, 2008.

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Fans of the Chinese and Mexican national teams root for their teams during a soccer match between Mexico and China at Qwest Field.

Romer Alejandro Cornejo Bustamante is Professor of El Colegio de Mexico specialising on China from a Latin American perspective.

1. Can you briefly describe your research

Tengo dos proyectos de investigación, uno es sobre las relaciones entre China y América Latina, con especial énfasis en México, y el otro es sobre los cambios en el sistema político de China.

I have two research projects, one is on the relations between China and Latin America, especially Mexico and the other is on changes in the political system of China.

2. For Mexico, how does the relation to China differ from that towards USA?

Difieren mucho, primero en términos de percepciones, en México ha existido un movimiento racista anti chino en el pasado y aún quedan reminiscencias de ello. Se conoce muy poco sobre China y en todo caso se asumen las posturas que predominan en la prensa internacional. El racismo ha revivido ante una relación comercial  extremadamente deficitaria para México, en muchos sectores hay una percepción de amenaza. En el caso de Estados Unidos la situación es contraria, predomina una gran admiración por el vecino del norte. Gran parte de la elite política y económica ha estudiado, vivido o tiene inversiones en Estados Unidos. Se acepta sin muchos reparos su calidad de potencia mundial. En el pasado la construcción del nacionalismo tenía, entre otros elementos, el anti Estados Unidos, pero esa construcción por muchas razones se ha esfumado.  La relación económica es muy estrecha y con excedente para México.

They differ widely, first in terms of perceptions. In Mexico there was a racist anti-Chinese movement in the past and there are still vestiges of it. Very little is known about China and we mostly take the position prevailing in the international press. Racism has been revived since the extreme commercial deficit in Mexico; in many areas there is a perceived threat. In the United States the situation is contrary, where there is a great admiration for the neighbor to the north. Much of the political and economic elite has studied, lived or has investments in United States. It is accepted without much hesitation as a world power. In the past, the construction of nationalism had, among other things, been anti-US, but for many reasons that focus has vanished. The economic relationship with the US is very close and with a surplus for Mexico.

3. Do you see particular concepts that emerge from Mexican thought that have
relevance beyond Mexico?

No. Por lo menos no en las ciencias sociales, éstas son una calca de las de Estados Unidos y Europa, aún en los estudios subalternos. Tal vez en la creación literaria y artística haya creaciones de relevancia, muy probablemente en lo que concierne a la cultura de frontera, a la asociación entre cultos religiosos y actividades fuera de la ley, en la cultura de las bandas delictivas.

No. At least not in the social sciences, they are a replica of the US and Europe, even in subaltern studies. Perhaps in literary and artistic creations there is relevance, most probably in terms of border culture, the association between religious worship and activities outside the law, in the culture of gangs.

4. What do you think is the usefulness of ‘south’ as framework for
intellectual dialogue?

Creo que es extremadamente útil. Por ejemplo en el trabajo que actualmente hago sobre la relación entre China y América Latina, el diálogo con mis colegas es sumamente difícil pues en su mayoría tienen una perspectiva desde el “norte” con respecto a China, concebida ésta como un “sur” irracional, incapaz, poco creíble y amenazante porque lo ven como un “sur” empoderado. Desde mi perspectiva, China es “norte” venido a menos y en proceso de reivindicación. Esa perspectiva me facilita mucho la comprensión de las decisiones de la elite de ese país. Además la perspectiva del “sur” me remite a planteamientos filosóficos y antropológicos en la explicación de la conducta humana individual y políticamente. Recomiendo repensar algunas cosas a partir de esta película  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0250258/

I think it is extremely useful. For example, in the work we do today on the relationship between China and Latin America, the dialogue with my colleagues is extremely difficult because most have a view from the “north” with respect to China. They conceive it as a “southern” – irrational, incapable, not very credible and threatening because they see it as a “south” power. From my perspective, China is “north” fallen on hard times and in the process of reclaiming its place. That perspective gives me much understanding of the decisions of the elite of that country. Besides, the prospect of the “south” to me refers to philosophical and anthropological approaches to the explanation of human behavior individually and politically. I recommend to rethink some things from this movie http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0250258/

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