Chinese President Xi Jinping and Argentina's President Mauricio Macri Damir Sagolj/Pool/Getty Images

China’s Elitist Collaborators

In less than 15 years, China has gone from playing a marginal economic role in Latin America to being among the region's top investors and trading partners. The elites whom China is courting as part of its efforts to expand its influence have a responsibility to provide a clear-eyed assessment of the potential pitfalls of engagement.

HONG KONG – At the beginning of this century, when China launched its “going out” policy – focused on using foreign-exchange reserves to support overseas expansion and acquisitions by Chinese companies – few expected the country quickly to emerge as a leading economic player in Latin America. Yet that is exactly what has happened. The question is whether this is good for Latin America.

In less than 15 years, China has gone from playing a rather marginal economic role in Latin America to being among the top investors and trading partners for most countries in the region, as well as its foremost lender and infrastructure builder. With its economic plans in Latin America cruising along smoothly – a trend that seems unlikely to change anytime soon – China has now set its sights on another goal: expanding its political influence in the region and beyond.

Of course, China’s status as an economic heavyweight already affords it a significant degree of political clout. But the Chinese state and its ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) are also pursuing a more direct, coordinated, and far-reaching strategy to expand its soft power.

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