Maria Montt Strabuchhi
China Review International
Representaciones de China en las Américas y la Peninsula Ibérica is an edited volume that explores the representations of China in the Americas and the Iberian Peninsula mostly during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. It focuses on the perceptions and reactions which emerge as a result of the role and presence of China in those regions. The book takes a multidisciplinary approach and heterogeneous theoretical positions, covering issues ranging from economics to cultural studies and from gender to international relations. The text consists of an introduction and three main sections and includes chapters in Spanish, English, and Portuguese.
The introduction reads as an overview of the representations of China in the area covered in the book. The editors acknowledge the complexity that representations imply, noting the importance of mass media and cultural production consumed by a significant portion of the populace. They emphasize the dominance of representations and imaginaries which aim to be homogeneous as a result of power agendas and show how these coexist and work in conjunction with other representations which, while less massive, can also play significant roles. They state that the representation of the “other,” which, as the book discloses, can be embodied by the “Chinese,” becomes an internal battlefield from which to control power. While the opinions expressed in the introduction sometimes rest on binary views regarding the perception of China as well as on how knowledge on China is obtained, it seems to be the middle ground which provides the most stimulating alternatives. This is something that the various chapters hint at in their different case studies.
The first section explores the perceptions, imaginaries, and representations of China in four chapters. In the first chapter, Francisco Javier Haro, Kenia María Ramírez Meda, and Yair Candelario Hernández Peña argue that Mexican perceptions of China are tied to notions linked to positive and negative traits, illustrating the nuances that emerge through interviews with experts. Their analyses shed light on what informs the perception of the Chinese in two Mexican cities, Mexicali and León. In Mexicali, a region with a historical strong Chinese presence, they identify [End Page 257] the existence of a “Sino-Mexican” identity and establish that this group is perceived positively, described as being “perseverant, savers and consum[ing] less” (p. 48). They also state that China is perceived in Mexicali as a global leader, where the “work, effort, and dedication” of the country is often cited (p. 52). For the case of León, they see China appearing as a “constructed enemy” (p. 53), a blaming process that they explain is due to the hardships that the shoe industry has suffered in the region. Their research thus shows how internal politics have to be taken into consideration when trying to understand how different interest groups deal with China. The second chapter, by Cristina Tapia Muro, looks at the perception of China in Colombia, working on data from the Global Attitudes Project of the Pew Research Centre and Latinobarómetro, as well as economic, social (related to issues such as the environment and health), and political news clippings. Tapia Muro explores her findings in comparison with other Latin American countries and the perception of the United States. Through her analysis she shows a duality shared between a favorable idea of China and one that fears the effects of Chinese growth. Her conclusions point to the relevance that the relationship between Colombia and the United States continues to have for local perceptions of China. For example, she suggests the possibility that the growth of China can be interpreted as a counterforce to the United States, a country she describes as Colombia’s traditional ally, while she argues that statistics show a preference for the United States, associating the North American country with values such as trust and liberty.
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