Strategic Blind Spot? China’s Growing Presence in Latin America

  • Ms. Charisse A. Adamson

China’s increased presence in Latin America has raised alarm bells in the halls of government, the private sector and the mass media. In the span of one decade Chinese trade to the region has increased exponentially from $29 million in 2003 to $270 billion in 2012. Chinese sales of weapons, military training and cultural centers are steadily increasing in the region. This is causing many pundits to believe China’s engagement in Latin America is part of a broader geopolitical strategy to counterbalance the U.S. pivot to Asia policy by challenging the U.S. in its strategic backyard. The paper will examine this concern by first exploring how self-image, history, and current economic motivations affect U.S. and Chinese policies in Latin America. The second part of the paper will provide an in-depth look at Chinese and U.S. policies in Latin America. The final section will assess the impact of those polices on cooperation between China and the United States. Despite concerns, China currently is not eclipsing U.S. influence in Latin America. China’s presence in the region bears watching. Conflict with China in Latin America could distract the United States from engagement in the Asia Pacific region.