Suddenly China is barging into the American continent with unexpected impetus. Over the weekend China complained to the still-standing government of Barack Obama about president-elect Donald Trump receiving a call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen to congratulate him.
As usual, Trump trumped up the call on his Twitter account and thanked the Taiwan president for her call.
Immediately in Mexico, China ambassador Qiu Xiaoqi extended an open handshake to the nation and invited it to join in increasing trade between the two nations, in particular if Trump decides to pull the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), something that is still in doubt.
But in the case of the 12-nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Trump has announced the United States will not participate, and as it is not yet a formal agreement, dumping it into oblivion is not a far-fetched idea.
Of course, this was good news for China, as the TPP from the start was a direct attack to protect U.S. international Pacific Rim trade, and if the United States pulls out of it altogether, surely Trump will leave a hole in it that China can comfortably fill in. And the United States may end up being the left out partner, not China.
Ambassador Qiu Xiaoqi made it clear that this may just be the right moment for China and Mexico to enhance relations and increase trade.
“We are willing to increase our joint efforts with our Mexican counterparts to inject new energy to the development of these relations over the next years; we’re convinced that cooperation between our nations is going to gain extra strength,” Qiu Xiaoqi told reporters during a press conference over the weekend.
Xiaoqi referred to Trump’s mention of pulling out of the TPP as “a threat” not to China, but to Mexico. In which case, if it’s true, “Mexico will have an ally in Asia.”
China shares with Mexico the ideas “of free trade and economic globalization, which are things that will benefit all nations.”
The recent increase of relations between China and Mexico at the political, economic, trade, scientific and technological levels positions both nations as “strategic partners” with great importance for each other.
The Chinese ambassador added that this is not merely a reaction to the United States’ president elect attacks on the TPP but a reflection of China’s policy of getting closer to as many nations as possible. She recalled that President Xi Jinping visited Ecuador, Peru and Chile where he proposed increasing free trade among those nations. In Peru, he also spoke to President Enrique Peña Nieto on the same terms the ambassador described to the Mexican press.
“We can come to the conclusion that China will continue in this policy and it will be promoting cooperation with all nations.”
Originally the press conference was to announce the 2017 festivities to commemorate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Mexico as well as announcing next year as “Chinese Culture Year in Mexico” but the conference got sidetracked for most of its duration to the subject of Donald Trump and the future of free trade in the Pacific Ocean region.
As for relations between the United States and Taiwan, Ambassador Qiu Xiaoqi did not mention the phone call incident between Trump and Ms. Ing-wen, but in Washington it was a noise maker all week as it is unprecedented for a U.S. president to mingle into diplomatic affairs even before being sworn in.
But China did file a note of complaint to the Obama Administration.
But the message to Mexico from China is more than clear, if the United States closes down its trade gates to Mexico, China is ready to fill up as much of the gap as it can.