The United States must turn to Latin America to counter China

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Leftists are engulfing Latin American governments as countries drift into China’s orbit.

June 19, leftist and former guerrilla Gustavo Petro won the presidential election in Colombia, drawing attention to a growing leftward shift across the Americas. This goes hand in hand with a growing engagement with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which poses a threat to the United States and its interests.

Just weeks before Colombia’s May 3 presidential election, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the Conference of the Americas and said it was important for the United States and Latin America to work together because of “Russia’s brutal and unprovoked attitude”. attack on ukraineand the growing threat that China and other authoritarian governments pose to free and democratic societies.

However, the actions of Latin American governments suggest that they do not feel the same as the United States about Russia and China. In fact, none of the neighbors to the south joined the penalties against Russia.

The Summit of the Americas held in Los Angeles, California from June 6 to 10 excluded the socialist governments of Cuba and Venezuela as well as the authoritarian regime of Nicaragua. The heads of state of Mexico, Brazil and many Caribbean countries have protested these exclusions, weakening the United States’ position with other nations.

Opposition supporters hold a banner that reads ‘More socialism’ during a rally with Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, in Caracas February 2, 2019. Guaido called for snap elections as international pressure mounted on President Nicolas Maduro to step down. (Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images)

Socialism or leftism is rising rapidly in Latin America. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a leftist, was elected in 2018. Argentina’s leftist President Alberto Fernández took office in 2019. In Bolivia, leftist Luis Arce was elected president in 2020. The following year, three leftists were elected: Pedro Castillo in Peru, Gabriel Boric in Chile and Xiomara Castro in Honduras. This year, the left-wing ex-Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is expected to be re-elected in October. As Latin America slides to the left, it slides deeper into the CCP’s orbit.

China is one of the main trading partners of Latin America, in addition to being South America’s leading trading partner. The whole region is becoming extremely dependent on Chinese trade. In 2021, Chile shipped 38.3 percent of its total exports to China. China is The top of Brazil trading partner, representing more than double the trade with the United States. argentina trade balance deficit with China, its second largest trading partner, increased by 81.5% last year.

China is also a major source of foreign direct investment and loans for the whole region. In 2020, China invested around $17 billion, mostly in South America. Between 2005 and 2020, the China Public Development Bank and the China Export-Import Bank lent approximately $137 billion to Latin American governments. Many of these loans were made in exchange for oil. Venezuela has been the biggest borrower, having borrowed $62 billion since 2007.

Since December 2021, 20 Latin America countries had joined the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as “One Belt, One Road”). China benefits from natural resources and food, while Latin America receives Chinese money. Meanwhile, the CCP is increasing its military presence in the region by providing military and police training to local governments and installing telecommunications and surveillance systems. The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region also plays a role in Beijing, attracting support for Taiwan like most LAC countries now officially recognize China.

China is a voting member of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank. Under the BRI, China has made significant investments in the panama canal in addition to 21 major infrastructure projects in the region.

China has also established a free trade agreement (FTA) and astrategic relationshipwith Costa Rica. In addition, China has signed comprehensive strategic partnerships with Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.

Last year, Beijing and the 33 members of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States of Central America (CELAC) signed the China-CELAC Joint Action Plan for Cooperation (2022-2024). The plan included not only economic and technological cooperation, but also security cooperation. Under the terms of the agreement, there is a commitment to continue holding the China-Latin America Superior Defense Forum. Recent developments in security and military cooperation are consistent with the 2015 CPC policy. Defense strategy white paper, which stresses the importance of establishing defense cooperation overseas.

Cuba China
Cuban security forces pose alongside their Chinese trainers at a Cuban government training school in 2016. (Courtesy DNA Cuba)

The United States is understandably concerned about the security threat that China poses in the region. Yet, it’s hard to keep Latin America away from CCP money with words alone. The Biden administration is also putting off many LAC states by refusing to recognize their individuality.

The LAC includes more than 30 nations, spanning at least seven official languages, each with unique issues and desires. The White House tends to lump them together and say they’re plagued by illegal immigration, transnational crime, weak institutions, failing democracy, corruption, persistent Russian interference and growing Chinese influence. This general US policy approach is insulting and alienating because countries like Brazil and Peru are as different as Germany and France.

Suppose the Biden administration wants the cooperation of LAC nations to counter the CCP in the region. In this case, the White House will have to show the same courtesy and diplomacy towards these nations as it does towards European and Asian countries. Washington must engage with them as unique individuals and offer realistic alternatives to the CCP. Otherwise, every nation from Argentina to the southern border of the United States will fall under the sway of the CCP.

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Epoch Times.

Antonio Graffo

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Antonio Graceffo, Ph.D., has spent over 20 years in Asia. He graduated from Shanghai University of Sport and holds a China-MBA from Shanghai Jiaotong University. Graceffo works as an economics professor and China economic analyst, writing for various international media. Some of his books on China include “Beyond the Belt and Road: China’s Global Economic Expansion” and “A Short Course on the Chinese Economy”.

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