Will China End up Dominating Latin America?

Is China gradually gaining more influence in Latin America? 

According to a column penned by Ahmed Adel, a geopolitics and political economy researcher, believes that the V China-Latin America Defense Forum has dealt a significant blow to the United States’ clout in the Western Hemisphere. 

The China-Latin American Defense Forum is one of the key ways that China develops its military connections in the region, which essentially challenges the Monroe Doctrine and offers an alternative to the US. Traditionally, the Western Hemisphere has been the US’s sphere of influence and any encroachment by an external actor like China could potentially disrupt the US’s hegemonic status in the region. 

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenhghe and emissaries from the defense ministries and armed forces of 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries participated in the V Defense forum on December 13. 

Fenghe pushed for Latin American countries to bolster unity, work together to fight risks and challenges, and promote peace and stability in Latin America and across the globe.

China views military cooperation as an important domain for expanding relations with strategic partners. Latin America is one region that China is looking to tap into. China’s economic engagement is well known in the region, as it craves Latin America’s agriculture and mineral resources

However, to boost its prestige abroad, China will look to establish itself as a military power. As China and the US’s security competition increases, Latin America will inevitably be one of various theaters of conflict. Since the Monroe Doctrine was established in 1823, the US has treated Latin America as its sphere of influence and has worked to strengthen ties with countries in the region, ensure that US friendly governments get elected, and expel potentially hostile external actors. 

However, China’s rise could potentially upset this security order in Latin America, as it’s now beginning to ramp up weapons sales in the region. Adel observed the following: 

“Even Colombia, which is traditionally pro-American and a NATO partner since 2017, received Chinese dual-use ships a few years ago. Chinese BMPs were also sold to Uruguay and Brazil. Brazil not only buys Chinese weapons and dual-use ships for Antarctic research, but also supports exchanges of military personnel for joint training.”

Indeed, China is stepping up its presence abroad. While the US was engaging in misguided regime change and nation-building ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, China started building economic and diplomatic ties across the globe, especially in Latin America’s backyard. 

Ideally, the US would exclusively work in its sphere of influence in the Western Hemisphere, in a much more positive manner by fostering rational, bilateral trade deals, cooperating on defense matters to battle transnational criminal entities, and investing in infrastructure so that Latin American countries actually become economically stable. The final point would go a long way in preventing further mass migration from the region to the US. 

However, to achieve all of that, the US will need to abandon its Eurasian-focused geopolitical strategy and start concentrating more on Latin America. 

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