US interference can’t hinder progress of China-Latin America cooperation
Published: Oct 20, 2021 04:42 PM
Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

Illustration: Tang Tengfei/GT

A delegation from the US government is reportedly set to travel to Latin America to explore infrastructure investment projects, a move that is seen as an attempt to counter China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in the region. Yet, as Latin American countries are struggling with the fallouts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's inappropriate for the US to try to drag regional economies to its geopolitical game.

Across Latin American countries' efforts to advance their development through opening-up in over the past two to three decades, the Chinese factor has made a contribution that cannot be underestimated.

China provides a vast market for Latin American products. China imports a large number of primary products in the international market, keeping prices high, which has greatly benefited Latin American countries that rely heavily on export of primary products. Over the past two decades, non-traditional export products from Latin American countries have been expanding their market share in China. China has overtaken the US to become the largest trading partners of many Latin American countries.

China's investment in Latin America has made up for regional challenges in acquiring capital. Affected by cultural and economic factors, Latin American countries have low savings rates and weak capital accumulation capabilities. Therefore, there are many problems caused by insufficient investment in both the infrastructure sector and industrial sectors. Although China is unable to completely address the lack of investment in Latin America, it can at least effectively make up for its capital shortage to a certain degree. 

China's investment projects in infrastructure and other fields exist throughout the region, and they have made significant contributions to the economic and social development of Latin America.

However, the US is increasingly showing resistance to China's growing presence in Latin America. The US not only used intimidation and coercion to treat Latin America nations, but also blatantly instigated the separation between Latin America and China. The US approach cannot be said to be completely ineffective. For instance, although some Latin American countries have not yet joined the Belt and Road initiative (BRI), they have not refused the cooperation under the initiative.

Still, among Latin American countries, there are many people of insight who hope to strengthen bilateral relations with China. As some analysts have pointed out, China does not intend to compete with the US for influence in Latin America. China also does not want Latin America to choose sides between China and the US. China even hopes that China, the US and Latin America engage in multilateral cooperation.  Therefore, no matter how much the "American factor" will damage China-Latin America relations, China's policies towards Latin America will not undergo fundamental changes. The "Chinese factor" will continue to play an important role in the post-pandemic reconstruction of Latin America. 

The author is the director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Shanghai University.