China’s stealth expansion in Latin America

The first couples of the U.S. and China pose at Mar-a-Lago, Florida
Donald Trump’s warming to Beijing, so evident at April’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (2R) in Florida, could give China a freer hand in Latin America (source: dpa)
  • China’s economic slowdown has not stopped growth in its Latin American trade
  • Infrastructure investment is picking up and China’s is now the region’s biggest investor
  • U.S. neglect of its peaceful back yard may help Beijing quietly expand its influence

In our last report on Chinese influence in Latin America, we concluded that any expansion of its trade role would depend on a return to fast economic growth of 6 percent or better. Even then, Beijing as a lender would restrict its focus to a few countries, especially Ecuador and Venezuela, which supply desperately needed petroleum, and beyond that would probably not aspire to a more significant geopolitical role in the hemisphere. However, we also suggested that if Donald Trump were elected president of the United States, his aggressive posture toward China would push Beijing into a more assertive stance.

Well, Mr. Trump has been president for three months, and he has retreated on his position toward trade with China. His brief tenure in the White House has already increased Chinese influence in Latin America due to his disdain for climate change and alternative energy, combined with his general indifference to the region.

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