China-Latin America Military Engagement: Good Will, Good Business, and Strategic Position   [open pdf - 3MB]

The reemergence of China on the global stage is arguably one of the most important phenomena of our time. With its sustained high rates of economic growth, the People's Republic of China (PRC) has dramatically increased trade and investment flows with the rest of the world, including regions such as Latin America, with which it historically has had very little interaction. In many of these countries, the PRC has gone from having an almost negligible economic presence to replacing the United States as the number one or number two trading partner. Moreover, particularly since the end of the global financial crisis, Chinese companies, in coordination with the Chinese government and banks, have begun to make multibillion dollar loans and investments in Latin America, creating a rapidly expanding presence of Chinese companies and workers in the region in such sectors as construction, logistics, manufacturing, telecommunications, and retail. In terms of 'soft power,' the PRC has arguably captured the imaginations of Latin American political leaders, businessmen, and students as a power meriting attention and, in some cases, courtship. While a great deal of attention has been given to Chinese commercial activity in Latin America, very little has been written in the open press regarding Chinese military engagement with the region. While visits by senior military leaders and major arms sales are reported in the Latin American press, there has been, to date, almost no detailed, comparative analysis of the PRC-Latin America military relationship. This is particularly striking, given the emphasis placed on military relationships in determining whether Chinese engagement with the region constitutes a threat to U.S. national security interests."

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