Chile and China are strategic partners with a long history of cooperation, trust and high-level exchanges, all of which lay the groundwork for strong future bilateral ties, said former Chilean President Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle.
Speaking with Xinhua on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Chile and China, Frei, who served as president from 1994 to 2000, lauded the solid cultural bond between the two countries, their growing trade ties and opportunities for cooperation.
Bilateral friendship took off with the founding of the Chilean-Chinese Institute of Culture in 1952 by a group of artists and intellectuals, most prominently the poet Pablo Neruda.
"This is to explain that relations with China, as many people believe, are not just for buying and selling things, but much more," said Frei, who has visited China more than 20 times and appreciates the venues that have opened up in Chile for learning China's language and culture.
"Young people look to Asia with great enthusiasm and, above all, with great interest in learning what they are doing and building. That is why it is so important for us to be able to value all the stages of this relationship and the opportunities for our young people," said the member of Chile's Christian Democratic Party.
In terms of trade, Frei highlighted the momentum of bilateral exchanges despite the COVID-19 pandemic, more than a year after the updating of the free trade agreement between Chile and China.
Thanks to alliances with Chinese e-commerce giants such as Alibaba and JD.com, the sale of Chilean products has accelerated amid the crisis, said Frei, noting "in less than six months we were able to place almost 400,000 boxes of citrus fruits" on the Chinese market.
According to Chile's National Customs Service, from January to October of this year, exports to China grew 12.7 percent year-on-year, to a total of 20.59 billion US dollars. In October alone, shipments to China rose 16.6 percent compared with the same month a year earlier.
So far this year, 37 percent of Chile's exports have gone to China.
Frei hailed Chile's participation in the China International Import Expo (CIIE), and the organization of five editions of "ChileWeek" in China, to promote Chilean products.
Chile has been present at the CIIE since its inception, and while the pandemic made it impossible to participate in person this year, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera still addressed the Nov. 4 opening of the expo with a pre-recorded speech.
All of that has made Chile a pioneer in Latin America in relations with China and has also promoted Chinese investment in Chile, with Chinese capital helping to drive projects in a variety of sectors, including mining, energy, agriculture, aerospace, infrastructure and connectivity, which in turn are forming part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by China to spur global growth, said Frei.
"We already saw in 2018 how investments grew. In 2019 and 2020, China became a great investor in Chile ... I see that there is notable collaboration in the sense that we have supported the BRI projects from the very beginning," noted Frei.
He celebrated the signing by China of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, at a time when analysts project the agreement could push global economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.
"These large pandemics, these major difficulties, cannot be resolved by a lone country, we need the international community, we need to work together," said Frei.