For the first time since the Cold War, an extra-hemispheric power is
challenging U.S. influence in the region and, implicitly or explicitly—
depending on who you talk to—its geostrategic position.
The growing economic and diplomatic rela- tionships between China and Latin Amer- ica have received a lot of attention recently. And with good reason. Between 2009 and
2010 alone, exports from Latin America and the Caribbean to China jumped by almost $30 billion. In the
past six years, the topic has been addressed in monographs, edited volumes and books—most significantly
in the Inter-American Dialogue’s 2006 report by Jorge
Dominguez; in the book The Dragon in the Room by
Roberto Porzecanski and Kevin Gallagher; and in the
book edited by Adrian Hearn and José Luis León-Man-ríquez, China Engages Latin America (reviewed in the
Fall 2011 issue of AQ). All have added considerably to
the discussion. And all raised a question: what else
was left to say?
This issue of Americas Quarterly attempts to add
a number of new perspectives and details. First, departing from the traditional approach of asking Latin
Americans or Latin Americanists to interpret China,
we asked leading China specialists, based on their deep
historical and political experience, to explain China’s
world view and foreign policy goals to Latin Americanists. You can see the results in the contributions
by Elizabeth Economy (p. 52), Lowell Dittmer (p. 60),
and Zhang Mingde (p. 74).
Another area covers the details of China’s trade competition with Latin America. A number of studies and
newspaper articles have been published on the extent
and increase of China’s trade and investment relationship in the region, but many only make general assertions about how Chinese manufactured exports are
cutting into Latin American domestic and overseas
markets. To go beyond this, our Charticle (p. 70) presents the basic facts of China’s trade and investment in
Latin America (with the help of ECLAC) and several of
the recent complaints against Chinese trade practices
brought to the World Trade Organization. To look more
in depth at Chinese export competition, Osvaldo Rosales (p. 96) for the first time provides a sector-by-sec-tor analysis of the impact of Chinese manufactured
goods on Latin American businesses and economies—
focusing on four countries.
As we show, the China–Latin America relationship
requires a sober understanding of the benefits and
challenges. If anything, the most “alarmist” element
about China’s expansion in Latin America is the difficulty for U. S. policymakers and scholars to integrate
this change into their more traditional view of the region. For the first time since the Cold War, an extra-hemispheric power is challenging U.S. influence in
the region and, implicitly or explicitly—depending on
who you ask—its geostrategic position. While it may
not amount to a security threat on the order of the former Soviet Union’s activities, it sets up an economic
rivalry that challenges the comfort zone of many U. S.
policymakers who still subconsciously adhere to the
defensive reflexes of the Monroe Doctrine. As such, it
represents a genuine historical shift in understanding
the U.S.’ role in the region, and the world.
In fact, arguably no other region better exemplifies
the decline of U. S. influence. Exploring this fascinating
and still-uncharted area, Eric Farnsworth (p. 80) and
Gabriel Marcella (p. 67) look at the political and military implications. Martin Vieiro (p. 108) asks whether
Chinese development assistance undermines Western
development values; and Ariel Armony (p. 104) warns
of the risk of corruption due to the shared culture of
informality. And in our Ask the Experts section (p. 113)
we put the question of whether China is a threat to
U. S. interests directly to leading policymakers and experts, including Congressman Connie Mack and Professor Minxin Pei.
Last, we examine the human element of a relationship that in fact dates to the commercial ties brokered
by Spain during the Colonial era and was amplified
by the wave of Chinese immigration to the Americas in the 19th century. The upsurge in relations over
the past five years has enriched ties with a new generation of entrepreneurs, business leaders and immigrants. These are vividly illustrated in the photo essay
by Keith Dannemiller (p. 88), and in a series of sidebars
exploring the ethnic communities, businesses, student
exchanges, and information networks that have blossomed around the region since Latin America and the
Middle Kingdom reengaged.
PHOTOGRAPH BY CORY LUM FOR AMERICAS QUARTERLY
Americas Quarterly WINTER 2012