Nationalist advocate or globalist superpower? China has resumed its quest for world dominance as the United States fades into the sunset. After acquiring more than the required number of commitments to its ambitious “One Belt One Road” initiative, the President Xi Jinping road show continues with the next stop apparently headed to Latin America.
Chinese Ambassador to Argentina Yang Wanming recently wrote an op-ed in the Argentinian publication, Clarin, which gives the world an opt-in to China’s vision for establishing warmer relations with Latin America.
Typical of China’s approach to enticing countries to come on-board the train of “Xi Jinping Thought”, the rhetoric is inundated with massive dollar figures in investments and trade opportunities:
“It is estimated that in the next 15 years, China will import goods for $24 Trillion and invest $2 Trillion in other countries which will increase its demand for good quality products from Latin America, promoting the increase of exports from this region.”
Ambassador Yang felt it necessary to remind Latin Americans the market size China’s population of 1.370 Billion can offer for the production of goods and services:
“Likewise, China has abundant productive capacity, able to satisfy the need of Latin American countries with regard to the integration of infrastructure and productive competitiveness. Both sides can take advantage of these opportunities so that China’s market, capital and technology advantages inject strength into Latin America’s sustainable development.”
It all sounds good but Latin America should first seek the advice of Sri Lanka before buying into Ambassador Yang’s sales pitch.
In 2010, China funded 80% of Sri Lanka’s $1.3 Billion deep-sea port project in Hambantota which is located near the country’s southern coast. The funding was part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative; President Xi’s legacy defining project aimed at connecting China to Asia, Europe, the Pacific and Latin America.
Unfortunately, the port project was not successful. It did not generate the required amount of traffic or the number of jobs Sri Lanka had projected. However, Sri Lanka was still indebted and had to repay the loans to China.
With the prospect of all of its revenues going to debt servicing, Sri Lanka had no option but to lease the port back to China for 99 years and repay the debt with lease money.
It was a win-win situation for China. Hambantota provided China with a port that would bring in minerals and metals from Africa and oil from the Middle East to its own ports.
Ambassador Yang resumes his sales pitch to Latin America by promising “deep strategic coordination” and a common push for “common destiny” which is President Xi’s synonym for globalism.
The United States has long warned Latin America of China’s practice of using “predatory lending practices” to further its political and economic influence on regions that are on its radar.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a speech last October 2017 said that countries that subscribe to China’s predatory practices end up with “enormous levels of debt”.
It remains to be seen if Latin America which has more conservative governments in place will favourably respond to China’s overtures.