Latin American countries look east as China Becomes New Partner

2022-05-13 0 By

“Latin America looks East,” foreign Affairs magazine wrote on February 24.Today, Latin America is as polarised as the rest of the Western world, riven by fierce debate over everything from “gender ideology” to how to revive an economy battered by the pandemic.But an unexpected consensus is emerging among many Latin American dignitaries, from left and right, that their countries should pursue a truly independent and non-aligned path in the escalating global confrontation between the US and China.Latin America’s drift towards the middle ground between the US and China began in the early years of this century, when China was far from having the clout it does now.But trade between China and Latin America and the Caribbean has soared from $18bn in 2002 to a staggering $450bn in 2021, driven by demand for commodities such as soyabeans, iron ore and oil.In recent years, even the region’s center-right, pro-AMERICAN leaders, such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and Colombian President Eduardo Duque, have shrugged off repeated warnings from Washington about the risks of economic engagement with China and welcomed a surge of Chinese investment and technology.These include providing 5G equipment to countries in the region, developing lithium mines in Chile and building a new subway for Bogota, Colombia.China is now the region’s second-largest trading partner and the largest for countries such as Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay.Just this month, the presidents of Ecuador, seeking a new free trade agreement with China, and Argentina, announcing Argentina’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative, visited Beijing.In this dramatic rise, China has been welcomed by many in Latin America as a new alternative to the US without the historical baggage of more than 200 years of imperialist behaviour.The outcome of this year’s elections in Brazil, the region’s largest economy, looks likely to push Latin America further in that direction.No one should be surprised that Latin American countries are committed to pursuing independent foreign policies in line with their sovereign interests.(Written by Brian Winter, Editor of The American Quarterly, translated by Huicong Wang)