After the end of the Cold War the United States was left standing as the world’s only superpower and that has remained unchallenged until recently, with China showing its interest in challenging the United States’ place as a hegemonic power in the international system. This is evident in their increased political, economic and military affairs with States all over the globe, especially their support of third world, developing and failed States in Latin America. The Chinese have provided aid, advisors, and helped arm Latin American States such as Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico and others.
The China State Shipbuilding Company has been working with the Uruguayan Government to build up their Navy, while at the same time the Aviation Industry Corporation of China was coordinating a deal to supply Uruguay with six new combat aircraft as well as JiaoLian-8 (Karakorum-8) Jet Trainer/Light Attack Aircraft. China has also given Karakorum-8 Jet Trainer’s or K-8 Jet’s, to a variety of other Latin American States; Venezuela has already received 18 of the 40 they ordered and Bolivia received six in the spring of 2011. China also signed a defense agreement in 2009, after which the Chinese donated two patrol boats, and six more K-8 Jets. At present, 18 Latin American countries have received military training from China.
Following the set up of relations with Bolivia and Uruguay in 2010, oil production in the two countries increased heavily. Afterwards, the Chinese sent defense officials to Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador and Mexico. It is also vital to note that Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela are four of the top five oil producing countries in South America, while in 2009 Mexico was the 7th largest oil producing country in the world. There has also been an increase of non-defense related goods to most countries in the region. Overall, the Chinese influence in the region has seen an increase in the trade, investment, military engagements, arms sales (which have quadrupled in the past five years), and a steady increase in the frequency of high-level Chinese visits. One must recognize that it is no coincidence that China is sending military aid and advisors to further protect and preserve their developing interests.
The motives behind China’s increased interest in Latin America are clear. As early as the turn of the century, China began to see the potential of Latin America, which began with their acquisition of the Panama Canal Zone and has grown into their current ties today. With a yearly growth of 10%, China must look abroad to find new sources of natural resources to fuel their growing economy. By the first decade of the new millennia China had already set up ties with dozens of Latin American based firms and corporations. Chinese based companies such as China National Petroleum Corporation, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), Sinovensa, China Metallurgical Construction Group, Shanghai Baosteel Group Corporation, Sinochem, and countless others have developed extremely close ties to Petroles de Venezuela, S.A., the Brazilian based Gerdau, S.A., and Companhia Vale do Rio Dice, Petrobras, Pan-American Energy, as well as Cuba Petroleo (CUPET) and the Argentine-based Bridas Energy Holdings (BEH).
With increased ties and investments with Latin American states and corporations, China is setting up shop right at our front door. We must be vigilant and ensure that while China is a major trade partner and we are interdependent, that we do not allow China to set up manipulate and disregard the sovereignty of states that are both geographically close to and partners with is in trade.
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Troy is an Army brat and the father of combat medic. He is also a retired Infantry Senior NCO with multiple combat tours, in addition to several stateside deployments. Troy retired from the Army and has worked in Information Technology consulting and as a contractor for the U.S. Army. He serves on several task-forces and enjoys working with soldiers every day. Troy is also a recognized and multiple-award winning military blogger who writes at www.bouhammer.com, and a familiar person in many social media circles.