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Isabel Hilton

Isabel Hilton is a London-based writer and broadcaster. She has reported extensively from East and South Asia and is the founder and editor of www.chinadialogue.net – a non-profit Chinese/English platform for environmental and climate change news and analysis – and of www.thethirdpole.net, which...
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China in Latin America: hegemonic challenge?

Isabel Hilton, 20 February 2013

The United States is Latin America’s traditional hegemonic power, but China’s influence in the region is large and growing. How far does China’s presence in the U.S. backyard represent a hegemonic challenge? China is important in the region as a buyer of Latin American resources, primarily from four countries, an important investor and an exporter of manufactured goods. The impact of China’s activities varies in degree from country to country. In several countries local manufacturing has suffered from cheaper Chinese imports; several countries have benefited from Chinese demand for resources, others from large investments, and China is having an important impact on the region’s infrastructure. The risks to the region include resource curse, distorted development and environmental degradation due to a lowering of environmental and social standards. Despite its significant economic presence, China has been careful to keep a low political and diplomatic profile to avoid antagonising the U.S. and to maintain a benign environment for its economic activities. Chinese support, however, has been important for partners, such as Cuba and Venezuela, that do not enjoy good relations with the U.S. So far the two powers have sought cooperation rather than confrontation, but rising tensions with U.S. allies Japan and Vietnam could have repercussions in Latin America if China feels the U.S. is becoming too assertive in its own East Asian backyard.

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