Children greet the Chinese Navy Ark Peace hospital ship in St. John’s, capital of Antigua and Barbuda, Oct. 22, 2018. / Xinhua

Children greet the Chinese Navy Ark Peace hospital ship in St. John’s, capital of Antigua and Barbuda, Oct. 22, 2018. / Xinhua

Editor’s Note: Azhar Azam works in a private organization as “Market & Business Analysts” and writes on geopolitical issues and regional conflicts. The article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of CGTN.

In 2008, Chinese demand led to a commodity supercycle in Latin America, helping the region weather the global financial crisis. International trade in 2020 collapsed due to the pandemic, but resilient trade with China has provided a key source of external growth for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) as their bilateral trade has been multiplied by 26, rising from $ 12 billion to $ 315 billion between 2000 and 2020 with a forecast of more than double to reach $ 700 billion by 2035.

A much needed boost in 2020 for the region, which accounts for 30% of global COVID-19 deaths and experienced a 7.4% GDP contraction last year, has come from Beijing, which has rallied around the LAC to support its efforts to weather the storm and quickly -follow the economic recovery through Chinese imports of beef, copper, petroleum and a number of other products from several states in America from the South such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Uruguay.

The invigorating trade relationship between China and the LAC, Beijing’s investments to develop regional infrastructure and successive visits by Chinese leaders and the signing of partnership agreements have alarmed US policymakers over China’s growing engagement. in the American backyard. Skipping over the opportunities presented by the Chinese economy, panicked US officials said the diplomatic overtures underpin Beijing’s economic activities and help it institutionalize cooperation and gain support in international forums.

China, the most important market for South America and the second largest market for LAC as a whole, is crucial in reversing the trend of the region’s economic slowdown. While investment is expected to rebound in 2021, Beijing’s offer of $ 1 billion in vaccine loans would give vaccines to a population where 37% of people are vaccinated. Argentina is also actively working to speed up negotiations with China to implement an ambitious $ 30 billion investment program comprising 15 infrastructure, energy and transport projects.

Almost half of the LAC countries, including three of the four largest regional economies, see China as their biggest trading partner. With an estimated investment of $ 140 billion, including $ 8 billion in six Caribbean states, Chinese companies have built dams, roads, railways, bridges, ports and telecommunications networks. The importance of Latin America to China has been evidenced by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 11 visits to the region since coming to power in 2012.

The U.S. Southern Command’s 2021 position statement asserted that China is gaining influence and influence globally in all areas: cyber, space, extractive and energy industries, transportation hubs, roads, infrastructure, telecommunications, legal and illegal fishing, agriculture and military training. He bizarrely linked Beijing’s donation of security supplies and equipment, health cooperation, and the Belt and Road initiative to winning the favor of regional security forces, pursuing the ” medical diplomacy, ”indebted fragile economies and encroaching on the sovereignty of US allies.

Clearly, Washington is petrified by Beijing’s nascent relationship with the LAC governments, 19 of which have focused on the transcontinental connectivity and infrastructure project. In 2019, China dethroned the United States to become the number one trading partner of Brazil, Chile, Peru and Uruguay. The close affinity between China and the LAC has prompted US officials to spread a false narrative, but regional nations have dismissed such US warnings, saying there is no indication Beijing is creating a “military sphere of influence” and that its main interests are largely economic and diplomatic.

The so-called global superpower should not be forcing the region to make tough choices for the execution of its malicious geopolitical ambitions against China. Some CLA states have already lost their robust economic momentum due to COVID-19 variants. As Nigel Chalk, acting director of the Western Hemisphere department of the International Monetary Fund, said, trends of uncertain productivity with damage to human capital due to “persistent unemployment, increasing informality and closures of schools “could take many years to reverse, so Washington must try not to hamper the LAC’s economic recovery.

Ana Sophia, an 11-year-old Colombian girl, shows a message of encouragement to the Chinese people in Bogota, Colombia, February 7, 2020. / Xinhua

Ana Sophia, an 11-year-old Colombian girl, shows a message of encouragement to the Chinese people in Bogota, Colombia, February 7, 2020. / Xinhua

Even though the United States has been a dominant power in Latin America, China is a reliable diplomatic and trading partner in the region. Washington should not intimidate regional nations simply because most of them want to profit from Chinese growth or have shifted recognition of the region from Taiwan in China to mainland China while others are waving back. make a sovereign and fair judgment in matters of foreign policy.

China never intended to intervene politically or influence regional governments over their bilateral relations with other countries. The United States, however, sees the LAC as a source of trouble and is escalating warnings, masked by intimidation about the region’s alleged dependence on China.

The arrogance of the United States was reflected when Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made a trip to Ecuador in October, giving a worrying warning to the region that working with Beijing could pose risks in “narrowly defined areas.” , while asserting that no country would be forced to choose between China and the United States In September, US President Joe Biden sent a diplomatic team for the first “listening tour” in South America with the aim to proclaim its Build Back Better World as a credible international initiative, although Margaret Myers, a China-Latin American expert on the Inter-American Dialogue, said “it’s very difficult to compete with China at this point.”

Apart from that, Blinken mostly wasted his visit criticizing the leaders of other regional states, such as the “deeply unfortunate” actions of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, discussing mass migration across the Americas, holding them to account. on human rights violations, to call for the preservation of democracy and to brag about the donation of American vaccines without any real commitment of investment, which countries in the region need most. When he arrived in Washington, he denounced Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega for trying to establish an “authoritarian dynasty”.

Despite Washington’s animosity towards Beijing, diplomatic and trade relations between China and Latin America – especially South America, thanks to historic pent-up Chinese demand – even during the pandemic flourished. The relationship would be further strengthened, because after a decade of China-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) cooperation, China is now considered a natural partner of the bloc which has always supported the countries of the region in the difficult times and was the only country where LAC exports recorded an increase in 2020 of 2% against an overall decline of 13%.

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