What it’s about: Xinhua’s coverage on the XIII Pacific Alliance Summit portray China’s relationship with the trading bloc (Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru) as increasingly relevant and suggest that the bloc’s main opportunity for economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region is China. The articles highlight important advances in relationships between the bloc and MERCOSUR (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) countries and echoes other articles on commenting on what might be considered the most important outcome of the summit: advancements in Pacific Alliance-MERCOSUR relations. Sources cited include Raquel Leon de la Rosa, a Mexican academic, who mentions that trade diversification is important for the region with the Asia-Pacific and China, representing critical markets for Latin America and Saul Pineda Hoyos, a Colombian academic, who states that Chinese investment offers Latin American countries viable solutions to meet current and future infrastructure challenges. Both academics suggest that the Pacific Alliance can serve as a vehicle to engage with China.
What’s misleading about it: On the surface, Xinhua‘s coverage on the Pacific Alliance’s summit is fair and doesn’t include any false information or make frivolous claims. Xinhua and the sources consulted are absolutely correct in saying that China is an increasingly important economic partner for Pacific Alliance countries and fairly capitalizes on the riffs that have been drawn recently by the U.S.’s current protectionist trade policy by presenting China as a fair alternative global trading partner. Chinese investment in Latin America has skyrocketed in recent years. For example, it is well-known today that loans from China to the region surpass those of the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank combined.
Still, we call out Xinhua for misleading its readers because of two main reasons which we explain here. First, looking at bilateral relationships between China and PA countries, it is clear that China still has a long way to go to forging a significant economic relationship with Mexico, the group’s largest and most important economy. As long as the U.S. continues to receive close to 80% of Mexico’s annual exports, the bloc’s combined economies will be skewed towards the north. Second, although it is absolutely fair to say that China is certainly the largest and most important economy in Asia, there is no evidence provided to support the claim made by Xinhua that China is the most important partner for Pacific Alliance countries within the Asia-Pacific region. Other important economies such as Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and New Zealand have also been ramping up economic relationships with Pacific Alliance countries and important agreements, such as the CPTPP, should greatly expand these through well-established and active free trade agreements.
Long story short, we are calling Xinhua out for jumping the gun and portraying China as the main partner for Pacific Alliance countries, a claim that is not reflected elsewhere. In fact, we took a good look at the official Pacific Alliance website as well as coverage on the subject by El Economista, El Pais, and El Universal, and found no articles that speak of any of the benefits that are highlighted in Xinhua‘s coverage. As a Chinese newspaper, Xinhua has every right to focus on matters related to China in the context of this event, yet when the only mention of China in other sources that covered the summit relates to the current U.S.-China trade war and the opportunity that that conflict presents Pacific Alliance countries to strengthen their trade within the region, we think it’s fair to say that Xinhua‘s article is seriously misleading.