Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Soft power or imperialism?

Last week the American President reminded Latin American countries of the Monroe Doctrine and warned them about Chinese efforts to spread China's influence.

China moves into Latin America
WHILE Donald Trump was in Davos last week trying to persuade the global plutocracy that “America First” does not mean “America alone”, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, was promoting globalisation, free trade and co-operation in Latin America. For his hosts, the contrast was striking. Mr Trump has insulted Mexico, El Salvador and Haiti, discourages investment in the United States’ southern neighbour, and talks trade protectionism. China, in the soothing words of Mr Wang, offers Latin America a “strategy of mutual benefit and shared gain”.

He was speaking at a meeting between China and the Confederation of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), a talking shop comprising all the region’s 33 countries…

The meeting marked the maturing of a relationship that has developed precociously in this century. Total annual trade between China and Latin America shot up from almost nothing to more than $200bn by 2014… Latin America’s exports to China increased by around 30% last year…

The biggest changes are in Chinese investment and lending. Until recently, these focused on oil, mining and Venezuela. Now they are centred on Brazil and Argentina, and are in more sectors…

China’s interest in Latin America is not matched by other big powers. The Trump administration has no clear strategy… The European Union (EU) remains the largest single source of foreign investment. But the conclusion of a long-awaited trade agreement with Mercosur, which includes Brazil and Argentina, has so far been thwarted… “The EU hasn’t worked out clearly what it wants of Latin America,” concludes a new report by the Elcano Institute, a think-tank in Madrid.

The same applies to Latin America in its embrace of China. This brings undoubted benefits. Apart from money, Latin American governments like—and take at face value—China’s stance on global governance and climate change. But the region is entering into a political entanglement with an external power that has no interest in democracy…

See also: Beware of ‘predatory’ Chinese investment in the Americas, warns Rex Tillerson 

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