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Executive Summary: CHINA’S INFLUENCE IN LATIN AMERICA

Benedetta Piva, Brinn Davis, Jasmine Woolley, SOUTHCOM

Week of Monday, November 15, 2021


Container China Shipping[1]


The Chinese military, diplomatic, and economic influence in Latin America and the Caribbean has been increasing over the last decade.[2] China will very likely expand its influence in the Latin American technological sector through the Digital Silk Road (DSR), which is part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China will almost certainly seek to secure access to Latin America’s raw materials and agricultural products and establish new markets for Chinese goods. By increasing investment in Latin America, China will likely try to secure political allies and limit the influence of the US in the region. However, Chinese investment in Latin America’s natural resources will likely increase environmental concerns and issues with the land rights of the indigenous population in Latin America.


China’s trade deals with Latin American countries have led to partnerships between Chinese and Latin American firms to develop and trade technology, which are likely to strengthen the ties between the two regions. The DSR focuses on technological cooperation through improvement of internet infrastructure and joint-space operations.[3] The DSR will very likely benefit Latin American countries as government funding for technological improvement in rural areas can be limited. This will likely increase Latin American governments’ reliance on Chinese technology firms. The increased reliance on Chinese firms will likely allow China to expand its political and economic influence in Latin America, a region that is geographically close to the US.


Chinese economic objectives in Latin America and the Caribbean include securing access to raw materials and agricultural goods, establishing new markets for Chinese manufactured products, and acquiring investment possibilities in the region for its infrastructure enterprises.[4] China will very likely become a reliable client for Latin American countries for minerals, oil, and soybean exports. China’s post-COVID-19 economic recovery will likely influence Latin America’s post-pandemic revival, increasing the region’s dependence on the country. However, China’s growing influence in Latin America will likely affect employment of low-income earners in the Latin American manufacturing sector, through the arrival of Chinese labor force. This will very likely increase anti-Chinese sentiment throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.


China is searching for allies to support important stances, such as China’s relationship with Taiwan.[5] China will almost certainly use its diplomatic and economic power to gain political support from Latin American countries. The prospect of financial aid packages, free trade agreements, and investments in infrastructure projects will likely influence Latin American countries to change positions about key political issues that concern China. Latin American countries like Panama, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Costa Rica, have changed their recognition of Taiwan in the last decade, due to China’s economic assistance.[6] China’s aim to restrict US influence in Latin America will almost certainly increase tensions between the two countries. The rising tensions between the US and China will very likely increase instability in Latin America as both countries will seek to expand their influence in the region.


Chinese investment in agriculture, energy, and mining industries is exacerbating Latin America’s environmental problems.[7] Although Chinese production of photovoltaic solar panels will likely contribute to an increased share of renewable sources in the region’s energy mix, the growing consolidation of Chinese activities will very likely put pressure on water supplies, and increase greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation in Latin America. Increased pollution and urbanization will likely hinder agriculture, increasing the prices of basic goods and making it difficult for citizens to purchase basic necessities. Indigenous communities will almost certainly be asked to give up sacred land for urbanization needs. Social tensions within Latin America will likely increase because of environmental damage caused by deforestation. Protests will likely occur in Latin American countries like Chile, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and Bolivia, which have significant Indigenous populations. Socio-political tensions will likely rise due to the discontent about government policies that limit land rights.


To mitigate concerns of Chinese influence in Latin America, the Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends that the US should focus on economic strategies such as improving trade deals with Latin American countries and increasing US investment in the region. The US should increase its investment for technological advancement and boost internet connectivity within Latin America, which will very likely limit China’s influence in the industry. This could be done by offering economic incentives to US firms willing to invest in Latin America. The geographical proximity to Latin America means that the US should improve its migration policies that will likely assist in improving its position within the region. The US should invest in countries like Brazil, Chile, and Peru that are boosting relations with China, as this will likely assist in countering attempts of China’s influence. This could include investment in tourism, through the assistance of online travel providers or the hotel industry, as this will very likely improve the Latin American economies over time. CTG recommends that the US undertake a comprehensive assessment of China’s influence in Latin America to determine the optimal sectors for investment and what countermeasures should be implemented.


The SOUTHCOM Team will continue to monitor partnership agreements made between China and Latin America as well as monitor US initiatives. Continual surveillance through Worldwide Analysis of Terrorism, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H) Officers will enable accurate intelligence analysis that addresses all short-term and long-term impacts of Chinese political and economic influence throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The SOUTHCOM, NORTHCOM, and PACOM Teams will utilize Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) to ensure optimal recommendations can be provided to key stakeholders. Collaboration with other CTG Teams will assist in creating well-rounded analysis that can be used in predicting the trajectory of Chinese influence in Latin America as well as its economic, political, and social outcomes.


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is a subdivision of the global consulting firm Paladin 7. CTG has a developed business acumen that proactively identifies and counteracts the threat of terrorism through intelligence and investigative products. Business development resources can now be accessed via the Counter Threat Center (CTC), emerging Fall 2021. The CTG produces W.A.T.C.H resources using daily threat intelligence, also designed to complement CTG specialty reports which utilize analytical and scenario-based planning. Innovation must accommodate political, financial, and cyber threats to maintain a level of business continuity, regardless of unplanned incidents that may take critical systems offline. To find out more about our products and services visit us at counterterrorismgroup.com.

________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1]China Shipping” licensed under Creative Commons

[2] “China’s Engagement with Latin America and its People,” Congressional Research Service, 2021, https://sgp.fas.org/crs/row/IF10982.pdf

[3] The Extension of the Digital Silk Road to Latin America: Advantages and Potential Risks, Council on Foreign Relations, January 2021, https://www.cfr.org/blog/extension-digital-silk-road-latin-america-advantages-and-potential-risks

[4] “China’s Engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean,” Congressional Research Service, 2021, https://sgp.fas.org/crs/row/IF10982.pdf

[5] “China’s growing influence in Latin America,” LSE Research Online, 2014, https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/35433586.pdf

[6] Latin America Shouldn’t Be a Pawn in U.S.-China Rivalry, Bloomberg, September 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-09-23/latin-america-shouldn-t-be-a-pawn-in-u-s-china-rivalry

[7] China has ‘big role’ in Latin America’s environmental problems: report, China Dialogue, April 2015, https://chinadialogue.net/en/business/7851-china-has-big-role-in-latin-america-s-environmental-problems-report/

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