HONG KONG -- Chinese President Hu Jintao's two-week foray into Latin America in November shows the extent to which China's economic development over the last quarter century has strengthened its foreign policy outreach.

Today, Beijing's friendship -- in particular its investment and trade -- are warmly welcomed in a corner of the world that has been traditionally recognized as America's backyard.

China has worked hard at courting Latin American countries in recent years, with then-President Jiang Zemin taking a swing through six countries in 2001. This time, Hu paid state visits to Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Cuba in conjunction with an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Santiago. By contrast, U.S. President George W. Bush, who also attended the APEC meeting, visited only one Latin American country, Colombia, where he stayed for four hours.