UC San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) co-hosted a two-day symposium Thursday, Jan. 16 and Friday, Jan. 17, bringing together policy leaders and scholars from three nations poised to make the most changes in the Pacific region. Called “Growth, Trade, Investment and the Future of Manufacturing in China, Mexico and the U.S.,” the symposium was jointly sponsored by IR/PS, Fudan University in China and Tec de Monterrey in Mexico.
"This event represents two of the major commitments of our school,” said IR/PS Dean Peter Cowhey in his opening remarks. “On one hand, it brings the expertise and the great tradition of our Center for U.S.-Mexican studies. On the other hand, it brings the enormous scholarship of our 21st Century China Program and the Fudan-U.C. Center on Contemporary China, working with partners that we vitally value.”
Both Shi Lei of Fudan University and Mauricio Cervantes Zepeda of Tec de Monterrey graciously thanked participants, event organizers and attendees, then highlighted the partnership and continual collaborative process, even over great distances.
“Today’s modern world requires us to be more in contact with each other at all times and to build relations with those who seem to be too far for us to reach,” Zepeda said. “This is what has brought us here today.”
Shi agreed, saying investments in trade are increasingly significant and “more and more important in our great relationship,” a sentiment Cowhey reiterated as well. He said steadily combining resources will make meetings like this – a first for the three institutions and one of many planned for the future – a place for pioneering investigation into relationships across the Pacific.
“What this symposium is telling us is that the intersection of China, Mexico and the United States is at the eye of the hurricane of the changes in the structure of global production and innovation,” Cowhey said. “We welcome the partnerships; we hope they become deeper.”
On Thursday, participants met at UC San Diego for a panel discussion and keynote address by former Mexico ambassador to China, Jorge Guajardo. The following day, participants met across the U.S.-Mexico border at Tec de Monterrey’s Tijuana campus.
At Thursday’s address, Guajardo used his experience as ambassador to China and knowledge of Mexico’s political history to compare the two nations today. IR/PS Professor Susan Shirk moderated the discussion after Guajardo spoke.
“When I was invited to address this audience, the suggest topic was ‘Is Mexico the Next China?’ But the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that we might have it backwards, and that we should maybe be asking, ‘Is China the next Mexico?’” Guajardo said in his talk.
“Though it’s of course crucial – and the purpose of this conference – to study China’s economy and its impact on the world, let’s not lose sight of what might be the bigger story in terms of the future of the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
In fact, Guajardo said there were more similarities between Mexico’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) than there were between the CCP and the Soviet Communist Party, which dissolved in 1991.
“Just as there was nothing really revolutionary about the PRI in its latter day, there is not much that is ‘communist’ anymore about the Chinese Communist Party. Both parties became, in essence, simply a vehicle for power and preoccupied mainly with their own survival,” he said.
Additional similarities were found in the day-to-day living he and his wife experienced in China, like regulations against foreign words in advertising, driving restrictions to help combat pollution in major city-centers and a foreign policy based on “complicity with rogue states,” he said: China with North Korea and Mexico with Cuba.
“Of course the comparison between Mexico’s PRI and China’s Communist Party is not perfect and can only take us so far,” Guajardo said. “Perhaps the most significant difference is that the Chinese can learn from the Mexican example, whereas the PRI had none to follow.”