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Research Report

China’s Evolving Role in Latin America: Can It Be a Win-Win?

Enrique Dussel Peters
Copyright Date: Sep. 1, 2015
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 34
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-1)
    Peter Schechter and Jason Marczak

    Chinese President Xi Jinping travels to Washington in September for his first state visit to the United States. Major bilateral and global issues like climate change, monetary policy, and the nuclear agreement with Iran are likely to top the agenda. But, an area of significance for both countries may not receive as much attention as it deserves: China’s increasingly close political and economic relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean.

    The growth in China’s economic engagement with the region in the past decade and a half is staggering. Trade has increased by nearly 2,000 percent since 2000, spurred in large...

  2. (pp. 5-11)

    Understanding the institutional framework of China’s public sector is critical to comprehending its relationship with Latin America. Under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, the relationship between the central government, provinces, cities, municipalities, and counties is dominated by consolidated institutional interactions.³ This political setting, which includes competition among public sector actors, differentiates modern China from other major economies.

    According to some estimates, China’s public sector controls and owns approximately 50 percent of total gross domestic product (GDP).⁴ Cities such as Beijing and Shanghai owned more than 34,000 and 16,500 firms, respectively, in 2012, including multinational corporations such as the...

  3. (pp. 12-21)

    China is ratcheting up its relations with a number of countries across Latin America. But five countries stand out for how individually and collectively they represent the diversity of Chinese interests and how the relationship is likely to evolve in the coming years. These countries give an overall picture of when this growing relationship works—and when it backfires. In each case, China has learned from its successes and failures. Have Latin American countries done the same?

    The country analyses that follow highlight select aspects of the bilateral dynamic both at present and in the future. The mix of countries...

  4. (pp. 22-24)

    The Latin America-China relationship is rapidly and dynamically evolving in terms of trade and, more recently, in Chinese FDI and loans. The institutional capability of both sides, including the Chinese, to deepen and improve knowledge of their counter-part is extremely weak: institutions are in general far behind the recent economic dynamism.

    This is a severe impediment to furthering the relationship since neither China nor any Latin American country has extensively Latin America has so far been unable to understand and systematically respond to the implications of China’s active public sector abroad and its ability to propose packages—including turnkey projects...