First Female President! What's the Outlook for Chinese Companies going Mexico for busines?

Automotive Author: EqualOcean News Editor: Leci Zhang Jul 02, 2024 08:05 PM (GMT+8)

In the early hours of June 3rd, preliminary results from Mexico's National Electoral Institute (INE) showed Claudia Sheinbaum securing between 58.3% and 60.7% of the votes in the presidential election, making her the first female president in Mexico's history. She is set to assume office on October 1st this year.

On June 2nd, the highly anticipated Mexican general election officially commenced, where Mexican voters, following Mexican law, elected a new president for a six-year term, all 500 members of the Chamber of Deputies, and all 128 senators of the Senate.

Approximately 100 million Mexican voters participated in polling stations nationwide to determine the allocation of over 20,000 federal, state, and local government positions. Members elected to the legislative bodies in this election are now allowed to seek re-election in subsequent elections, marking a significant change. This national election in Mexico coincided with state elections held in 2024.

The presidential candidates in this election included Claudia Sheinbaum from the ruling party, National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), widely seen as a protégé of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and endorsed by her party. Amid growing criticism of President López Obrador, Xochitl Galvez emerged as a strong competitor from the opposition coalition "Frente Amplio México," garnering between 26.6% and 28.6% of the vote share. Jorge Álvarez Máynez, from the Citizen Movement party, was the sole male candidate in this election, polling at around 10% in support.

The Election Process in Mexico

Overview of the Election

The recent Mexican election officially commenced in June 2023 and concluded in June of this year. Since Claudia Sheinbaum defeated former Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard and other competitors in September last year to become the 2024 presidential candidate, numerous domestic and international media have pointed out that Mexico is likely to welcome its first female president in history. Another presidential candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez, is also a highly accomplished woman. She is a graduate of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and an entrepreneur. Despite their differing views on many issues, both candidates identify as feminists and advocate for women's rights.

A Violent Election

Throughout the campaign period, Mexican society continued to face persistent violence. Criminal groups exploited local elections as opportunities to exert power, leading to turf wars among gangs and resulting in the deaths of dozens of potential candidates during the election season. On the election day, June 2, two polling stations in Puebla, central Mexico, were attacked, resulting in at least two deaths. This has raised concerns about Mexico's security situation and questioned whether the presidential candidates can address the long-standing security issues that have plagued Mexican society for decades.

Challenges Faced by the Three Candidates

During this election, all three candidates faced various challenges:

Claudia Sheinbaum: Sheinbaum defeated former Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard in the primary election. Ebrard expressed dissatisfaction with the primary results, alleging unfairness. However, Alfonso Durazo, the chairman of the National Executive Committee of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), stated that Sheinbaum won by a significant margin in all five internal party polls. Sheinbaum's victory not only solidified her leadership within Morena but also positioned her advantageously for the 2024 presidential election.

Xóchitl Gálvez: Gálvez's main challenge was to unite the opposition coalition and garner sufficient voter support for her reform agenda. She needed to propose specific policy measures to address Mexico's economic and security issues and demonstrate her ability to lead the country out of its current difficulties.

Jorge Álvarez Máynez: Álvarez Máynez faced the challenge of increasing his visibility and support rate. As a newcomer to politics, he needed to employ innovative campaign strategies to attract young voters and the urban middle class and present practical policy proposals to address Mexico's economic and social problems.

The Three Presidential Candidates of Mexico

The Leading Frontrunner: Claudia Sheinbaum

Claudia Sheinbaum, from the ruling National Regeneration Movement (Morena), is often referred to by the media as the protégé of the outgoing president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. With a long career in politics, Sheinbaum has become a prominent figure in Mexican politics. Her close relationship with the current president has made her a dominant force in this year's election.

Sheinbaum is the clear leader in voter surveys, with high expectations from both voters and the media to become Mexico's first female president. However, she faces the challenge of establishing her own independent image apart from her political mentor, President López Obrador.

As a candidate from a left-wing party, Sheinbaum has been a strong supporter of many of President López Obrador's key projects and policies throughout her campaign. Nonetheless, experts suggest that Sheinbaum's personal experiences and past governance indicate that her approach to governance might differ from López Obrador's. Sheinbaum is known for her discipline and strategic thinking, which contrasts with López Obrador's more radical style.

The Maverick Opposition Candidate: Xóchitl Gálvez

Xóchitl Gálvez, a self-made businesswoman, brings a unique appeal to her campaign. She has promised to combat drug cartels and improve the economy, making these pledges central to her campaign slogans.

At 61, Gálvez trails behind the ruling party candidate, Sheinbaum, in the polls. Representing the opposition coalition, Gálvez vows to restore security in Mexico, where approximately 30,000 people are murdered annually due to the deep-rooted influence of criminal gangs, causing severe economic and political damage.

Born in Tepatepec, Hidalgo, Gálvez has often described her upbringing with her mother and alcoholic father, surrounded by poverty and violence. These experiences motivated her to forge her own path, leaving home at 17 to study in Mexico City rather than marrying young like many of her peers. In this year's election, her "grassroots" background and experiences have garnered significant support.

Gálvez studied computer engineering and specialized in robotics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico before founding a technology company. In 1999, the World Economic Forum named her one of the "100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow." Known as a "rebel," Gálvez is famous for her informal and sometimes irreverent speech, often using colloquial language in her campaign activities, which stands in stark contrast to the traditionally solemn Mexican political landscape.

The Rising Political Newcomer: Jorge Álvarez Máynez

Jorge Álvarez Máynez, a federal representative of the Citizen Movement party, is competing against Sheinbaum and Gálvez in the presidential election. At 38, Máynez appears youthful compared to his more well-known competitors in the political and business arenas. In his public appearances, he emphasizes that his proposals and public policies are aimed at the new generation, asserting that he doesn't aspire to be the best president in history but rather the best president for Mexico's history. Despite this, Máynez's support rate in the election is only 10%, leading to a quiet exit from the race.

Born in 1985 in Zacatecas City, the capital of Zacatecas State, Máynez identifies himself as a rational optimist and a proactive advocate for lost causes. As indicated on his profile on the Citizen Movement party (MC) website, his main agenda includes freedom, justice, rights, education, culture, and science. He is primarily committed to fighting inequality and corruption. From the outset, Máynez believed that the issues Mexico needs to "fix" are violence, impunity, and insecurity to ensure "national stability."

Sheinbaum's Agenda

Analysts anticipate that Claudia Sheinbaum, if elected, will continue the political and social reforms of the current president, López Obrador, domestically while emphasizing her personal style in foreign policy to further promote global multipolarity. As the loyal successor of the current center-left president, Sheinbaum is often referred to as the "Merkel of Mexico." Her governance focus will be on consolidating the economic interests of the lower and middle classes, combating corruption and crime, and emphasizing environmental protection. Previously, at a major campaign event in Mexico City, Sheinbaum outlined 100 government plans covering security, economy, society, and the environment.

Continuing the "Fourth Transformation"

In domestic affairs, Sheinbaum stated during her campaign that she will continue advancing President López Obrador's "Fourth Transformation." Since taking office in 2018, López Obrador has actively promoted a series of reform plans aimed at optimizing the political environment, increasing infrastructure development, and improving people's livelihoods, focusing on combating corruption, eliminating poverty, and implementing energy reforms, achieving notable results. Analysts believe Sheinbaum will continue López Obrador's political and social reforms, with particular attention to security, economy, and education.

In terms of security, Sheinbaum proposed the "Republic of Security and Justice" plan, focusing on the root causes of violence. This includes strengthening the National Guard, intelligence and research, and coordinating reforms of law enforcement and judicial institutions to address Mexico's insecurity and violence issues.

In education, she promised to make Mexico a "powerhouse of education, science, and innovation," achieving educational freedom, providing universal scholarships, fair wages, and enhancing higher education.

Currently, Mexico faces severe issues with drug trafficking, arms smuggling, and violent crime. Reducing insecurity and combating organized crime will be Sheinbaum's primary challenges upon taking office. During her tenure as mayor of Mexico City, she took stringent measures against violent crime, achieving certain successes. These experiences and policies will likely be reflected in her new government's agenda. Moreover, given her academic background, Sheinbaum is expected to increase support for higher education and scientific research.

A More Open Foreign Policy

Regarding foreign policy, Sheinbaum indicated during her campaign that she is willing to strengthen relations with North American countries and the role of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), enhancing dialogue on economic, immigration, and security issues. She also advocates for development through cooperation and expanding relationships with Latin American countries, aiming to establish an "open country to the world."

López Obrador's relatively conservative foreign policy leaves room for Sheinbaum to showcase her diplomatic style. Sheinbaum is likely to leverage her strengths in international organizations and other multilateral forums, such as addressing climate change and developing new energy sources, to elevate Mexico's international standing.

Throughout her campaign, Sheinbaum has consistently maintained a firm and positive stance on global multipolarity. She plans to further develop relations with Asian and European countries and oppose unipolar hegemony.

Emphasizing Sustainable Economic and Energy Policies

Economically, Sheinbaum advocates for maintaining social spending policies, reducing public debt, and continually raising the minimum wage to eliminate poverty and inequality. In her "100 Steps of Transformation," she proposed significantly reducing public debt from the current 3.7% of GDP to 2.5% by 2029 to allocate resources to priority goals.

Sheinbaum stated she would continue to raise the minimum wage annually, targeting an 11% nominal growth rate. During the current administration, the minimum wage has been raised six times, most recently on January 1, increasing from 207.44 pesos (12.06 USD) per day to 248.93 pesos (14.48 USD), and in the northern border free zone, from 312.41 pesos (18.17 USD) to 374.89 pesos (21.80 USD).

Regarding water resource management, she plans to amend the water law to ensure rational use and public interest, modernize agricultural irrigation, and implement strategic water supply projects. Mexico City, with nearly 22 million residents, faces a severe water crisis due to geographical, chaotic urban development, and infrastructure leakage issues, exacerbated by climate change.

In the energy transition, Sheinbaum aims to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency, including solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal energy, to reduce energy costs and address climate change challenges. López Obrador's energy policy has faced criticism, while Sheinbaum promises to improve this situation through a renewable energy transition, contrasting sharply with the current government's strategy of modernizing and building new refineries.

Significance and Impact of Sheinbaum's Election

Open and Pragmatic Attitude Towards China

Claudia Sheinbaum has maintained an open, friendly, and pragmatic attitude towards China. In April 2023, during her tenure as Mayor of Mexico City, Sheinbaum held talks with Chinese Ambassador to Mexico Zhang Run. Sheinbaum highly praised the development of China-Mexico relations and the achievements of pragmatic cooperation, noting that Chinese companies actively participated in various infrastructure construction projects in Mexico City, contributing to convenient, safe, and green travel for its residents. Mexico City places great importance on cooperation with China and welcomes Chinese enterprises to participate in the revitalization of the northern industrial zone of the city. She also expressed a willingness to collaborate with China on cultural events for the Year of the Dragon, aiming to benefit more citizens through Mexico City-China cooperation.

Additionally, during her campaign, Sheinbaum proposed embracing the trend of substantial foreign investment in Mexico, including investments from China. This indicates that, if elected, cooperation between China and Mexico in the industrial sector will likely be further strengthened, bringing new opportunities for Mexico's industrial development and economic transformation.

Overall, it is anticipated that Sheinbaum's election will broaden the scope of China-Mexico cooperation, including infrastructure development, cultural exchange, and industrial collaboration. Chinese enterprises will find more extensive development opportunities in Mexico, providing new momentum for the economic and social development of both countries.

Balancing Relations Between China and the U.S.

Current President López Obrador has repeatedly stated that Mexico does not wish to engage in a "trade war" with China and that Chinese investment in Mexico will continue. He has also expressed gratitude for China's assistance in procuring disaster relief supplies for Acapulco. As Sheinbaum is seen as López Obrador's successor, it is expected that she will maintain this approach in China-Mexico relations.

However, the close proximity to the United States presents an unavoidable issue for Mexico. The U.S.-Mexico relationship is the most important bilateral relationship for Mexico, and how to manage this relationship is a crucial challenge for any Mexican presidential candidate, both before and after the election.

A New Direction with a Female Leader

In recent years, Mexico has made significant strides in gender equality. This election is unique in that both presidential candidates are women. From the perspective of the number of female presidential candidates and the influence of female politicians, Mexico has made considerable progress in gender equality. Known for its machismo culture, this election is undoubtedly a major victory for women's political participation in Mexico.

Mexican women have had the right to vote since the country's establishment in 1953. Following political transformations in 2000, reforms to enhance women's political status accelerated, culminating in the 2019 constitutional inclusion of gender equality in representation. Nevertheless, gender discrimination and machismo culture persist.

Sheinbaum's focus on specific issues, such as education, environment, and public health, reflects her identity as a female politician. She has pledged increased funding for education and measures to combat gender violence. However, as a female politician, Sheinbaum faces the same challenges that female leaders in Latin America and globally encounter—the limitations and prejudices associated with their gender. Despite winning the election, the invisible glass ceiling remains, reminding her that in a male-dominated political world, she must work harder to prove her competence and value.