China’s One Belt One Road Initiative connects Asia to Europe. However, visionaries have wondered how to connect China to Latin America as part of this initiative. China-Latin American trade has increased by 1,200% or from $10 to $130 billion between 2000 and 2009. The challenge is physical. There is a vast Pacific Ocean separating China from Latin America. China has the ability to create islands in record time with the MV Tian Kun Hao. Hawaii has acted as a gateway to Asia for the United States. What about the equivalent of a Chinese Hawaii from a strategic point of view? The author proposes that China will create an island in the Pacific that is more or less equidistant from China and Latin American. This island will act as an extension of the One Belt and One Road Initiative. The island could be named after Zheng He the admiral who might have arrived in the Americas before Columbus. This island will have both infrastructure and educational goals.
A traveler traveling from Beijing to Mexico City wastes a lot of time using hub airports that do not support the goal of connecting these two cities. The traveler has to go to hub airports in the US such as Dallas, Vancouver, Chicago, Los Angeles and even Amsterdam that are out of the way. The island will act as a hub airport connecting Chinese cities to Latin American cities. The distance from Beijing to Mexico City is 12,450 km. The Boeing 777, the most common airplane in the world, has a range of 9,704 to 15,844 km. An island more or less 6,000 km from Beijing and Mexico City would allow a Boeing 777 to reach just about any city in China or Latin American from that island. A Boeing 777 has a speed of 950 km/h. In theory with a one hour layover, a traveler could travel from Beijing to Mexico City in 14 hours via the island versus the usual 18-20 plus hours the traveler now has to travel.
The Chinese cities the island airport hub serves might include Beijing, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen. The Latin American cities the island airport hub serves might include Bogotá, Lima, Mexico City, Panama City and São Paulo. The idea is the traveler to cities in China other than Beijing or Shanghai can arrive at other Chinese cities with only one layover rather than two or even three layovers as is currently the case. As a specialized hub airport, layover times should be minimal but longer layovers are inevitable. The airport should be designed with pod style accommodations as a design priority rather than a design afterthought.
Japanese tourists go to Guam to buy US goods! Could the Chinese island be a place where Latin Americans go to boy Chinese goods? Conversely, could the island be a place where Chinese go to buy Latin American goods? Business to customer sales are part of any airport. However, could business to business also be done on the island?
The island will have advanced communication infrastructure that connects China with Latin America either via satellite and/or an underwater fiber optic cable connection. The island could house a submarine branching unit connecting Chinese cities to Latin American cities. Chile and China are already working on an underwater fiber optic cable connection.
The island will provide a place in which Chinese and Latin Americans can learn together and from each other. The island will house a trilingual university. The best and the brightest Chinese learn Spanish. The best and the brightest Latin Americans learn Chinese. English is used as a transitional language in the first two years but eventually the students move to all Chinese classes for the Latin Americans and all Spanish classes for the Chinese. Trilingual graduates will be in demand in any number of fields. However, the university could focus on creating top of the line aviation management, logistics, telecommunications, translation studies and tourism-hospitality departments. The aviation management students can do internships in the airport. The logistics students will act as leaders that have the skills to increase trade between China and Latin America. The tourism students will acts as leaders that can increase tourism between China and Latin America.
The foreign language department will focus on Chinese, English and Spanish. There will be a further emphasis on translations studies and computer-assisted translation in particular. The wide spread use of applications like Google Translate show that ultimately computers will play a larger and larger role in translations tasks. The department may also offer classes in Portuguese and Japanese for those students interested in becoming quadrilingual.
The advanced communications infrastructure capability on the island could be used to promote distance learning between China and Latin America. This distance learning project includes regular and guest professors from China that are on the island teaching students throughout Latin America and vice versa. An advanced communication system will also allow Chinese and Latin American researchers to communicate with each other more effectively. The university can act as a convenient physical space where researchers can finalize research face to face that has already been done largely in cyberspace. The university should be able to host international conferences involving the Americas and China. The university hotel can be used by university guests. The tourism and hospitality students will do internships in the university hotel.
A university affiliated online educational TV station based on the island will take advantage of the communications infrastructure. Telecommunications majors will do internships in the television station. The TV station will send Chinese television shows, with educational and/or cultural merit to appropriate Latin American audiences including students and academics in Latin America. The students in the translation studies program will translate the Chinese shows into Spanish for Latin American consumption. Latin American television with educational and/or cultural merit will in turn be translated into Chinese and aimed at appropriate audiences in China. The translations studies students gain valuable real life translation experience via this project. Large audiences in China and Latin America gain a broader international outlook from this programming.
Later, original programming made by students under the direction of professors at the island university could be part of the project. The student made programming could focus on Chinese-Latin American connections. A series of modules designed to teach Spanish speakers Chinese could be one of the projects of this television station. Also, a series of modules designed to teach Chinese speakers Spanish could be a project of this television station.
Culture shock is always a problem when students study abroad but distance acts as a remedy of sorts for the students in the college. The location of the island means Chinese students are more or less seven hours from home in China. Obviously the Latin American students are also more or less seven hours from home. This means students can more conveniently go home and recharge than if home was 14 to 20 hours away! The communications infrastructure could be used to allow the students easy two way video communication with friends and family back home. The university should obviously have a rich extracurricular environment. Busy students have less time to be homesick!
Student electives and student clubs can act as extensions of the cross-cultural focus of the university. Classes in Chinese cuisine and Latin American cuisine would be logical electives. Chifa is a fusion of Chinese Cantonese cuisine and Peruvian cuisine and could be the signature cuisine of the university. A cooking club could be an outgrowth of these classes. The faculty sponsor should probably be a member of the tourism and hospitality department and the students of this department should take a lead role in the cooking club. Latin American students teach Chinese member Latin American dishes and vice versa. The creation of original fusion dishes that combine Chinese and Latin American elements should be encouraged.
China is of course famous for wushu and classes in wushu make sense in this university. Latin America does have some very effective martial arts such as the Brazilian martial art capoeira, Colombian grima, and juego del garrote. The author of this paper does have some martial arts experience in both Chinese and Latin American martial arts. I think Chinese and Latin American martial arts would complement each other. Latin American martial arts are more modern than wushu and reflect modern realities such as the use of modern weapons like machetes for offense and specialized moves that act as a defense against firearms. The use of hand stand techniques in capoeira seem fantastical until you realize that shooting a moving leg is a difficult task compared to shooting someone in the chest. A leg wound is also less likely to lead to death than a chest wound. In contrast, Chinese martial arts use more ancient and even exotic weapons and generally provide no defense against firearms but have no equal in terms of variety of weapons and variety of techniques. A martial arts club might be a good place for students to explore a fusion of these martial traditions. Surfing and scuba diving could both be classes and clubs that do not serve a cross cultural function but take advantage of the island location. The elective classes act as introductions to an area of interest while the clubs with the appropriate faculty sponsorship allow the student to gain additional expertise in their interest area.
As a central Pacific Ocean outpost of China, the island could make soft power inroads among Pacific island populations. The children of local Pacific island elites could receive substantial scholarships to attend the university or even have full-tuition scholarships depending on circumstances. There will be a need for custodial labor and clerical workers on the island. Most Pacific islands suffer youth unemployment that is estimated at being around 23 percent! If Pacific islanders are treated fairly then they will probably view China as a fair international broker in any future political situations. The educational television station could broadcast TV shows over the air that are of value to Pacific island populations.
In an earlier megaproject proposal, I suggested there are several advantages to a donut shaped island. Belgium has suggested a donut shaped island can store energy generated by wind power as described in Wired. The center of the donut is a fresh water lake. This provides a source of drinking water, fresh water fish and a shark free area to practice water sports such as sailing and scuba diving.
If you have two donut shaped islands side by side and touching then you get a figure eight shaped island! Eight is a lucky number in Chinese culture! One donut shaped island is used for the airport. The airport island is bigger because airports use up a lot more space than universities. Plus, there is always the possibility that the island grows from being a hub airport connecting China and Latin America to becoming a hub airport that connects Asia and the Americas as a whole! The other donut shaped island is used for the university. The B2B center and B2C mall sits where the two islands meet. Security at the Eastern center/mall exits prevent unauthorized personnel from exiting into the university island when the international security situation makes this necessary. A center/mall as a wall provides better optics than an actual wall. The students of course have free access to both islands with their student IDs. The top floor of the center/mall allows a view of both lakes and houses a seafood restaurant.
The rise of Frankencracy in the US means the US has given up on its traditional leadership role in the Americas. The unilateral attack of NAFTA by the US means the Americas can no longer trust the US as a reliable long term partner in regional development. The rise of Frankencracy also means the demise of a potential tripolar global order. New political structures need to be created for a prosperous global future. China’s One Belt One Road Initiative will bring prosperity to millions in Asia and Europe. Hopefully this proposal means that Latin America can also benefit from China’s One Belt One Road Initiative.