China is one of the most dangerous enemies the United States has, the rapid and determined advance of the Chinese regime in Latin America is quite worrisome as it represents a threat to the security and interests of Americans. El American had access to a State Department report delivered on July 5 to Congress detailing the Chinese regime’s advance in the region. The unclassified report is dated July 1 and is a valuable summary for understanding how the Chinese Communist Party operates in Latin America.
According to the unclassified document, companies based in the People’s Republic of China have invested more than $153 billion in Latin America since 2005. While the China Development Bank and the China Export-Import Bank have provided nearly $140 billion in development loans.
In terms of agreements between China and Latin American countries, the report notes that China remains the largest trading partner of Brazil, Chile, Peru, and Uruguay. It has free trade agreements with Chile, Costa Rica, and Peru, and is in negotiations with Ecuador and Uruguay. It explains that “officials from the People’s Republic of China boast strong and growing political, diplomatic and military ties with the authoritarian governments in Cuba and Nicaragua.” The report also notes that “China’s military and police cooperation is also a major issue in the region.”
On military and police cooperation, the report submitted to Congress notes that China has built a “military diplomacy” that has expanded over decades and includes training, exchanges, and joint exercises. There is a commitment to military dialogues that include Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The report highlights that in November 2017, Venezuela sent some personnel to China for the “Clear Skies” military exercise and that, reciprocally, Chinese personnel has participated in military parades in Venezuela, having been deployed on several occasions in the South American country, possibly for training and maintenance support of military systems supplied by the People’s Republic of China.
China’s troubling relationship with Venezuela and Cuba
The State Department report details that Cuba and China have collaborated for six decades, including a “close party-to-party relationship.” The unclassified document notes that Cuba’s state-owned communications monopoly, ETECSA, uses mostly equipment from Chinese technology suppliers. China is also one of Cuba’s largest creditors, the regime reportedly wrote off $6 billion of Cuba’s debt in 2011. Cuba has also joined the well-known Belt and Road project, opening the doors to China for the development of energy infrastructure, the document highlights.
Meanwhile, Venezuela remains the largest recipient of loans from China in Latin America, and the Asian regime is also the most prominent lender Venezuela currently has. The Maduro regime owes the People’s Republic of China an estimated $19 billion. Venezuela has made payments on this debt through crude oil shipments.
Another critical issue highlighted in the document is that the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, provided the Venezuelan Regime with the technology it has used to repress its own people through an ID called carnet de la patria, which allows a smart card to transmit personal data to centralized servers, giving the regime the power to condition emergency food, health, and social services according to the political loyalty of individuals. The State Department stresses that ZTE’s role in the carnet de la patria in Venezuela is just one example of how China has exported its “digital authoritarianism” to countries around the world, allowing private data to be controlled by repressive regimes.
China as an observer in the OAS
The State Department recalls that China sought observer status in the OAS for several years, and was granted the role by the organization in 2004. As the report details, since 2005, the People’s Republic of China has given more than $3 million in financial contributions to the OAS.
Sales and transfers in defense articles and services
The report also claims that between 2002 and 2018 Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guyana, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela have recorded transactions with the PRC for an estimated $730 million in arms imports.
Bolivia, from 2003 to 2018 reported approximately $67 million in arms imports from China. These significant imports include the purchase of six Harbin H-425 helicopters in 2011, 31 armored vehicles, and military vehicles in 2016.
Venezuela between 2006 and 2016 reported $631 million in arms imports, China is the largest supplier of defense articles to Venezuela. Major cases include the sale of K-8 fighter jets, Y-8 and Y-12 military transport aircraft, and JYL-1 and JY-27A radars.
Different Chinese actions pose a threat
The report concludes that various Chinese actions pose a threat or challenge to U.S. defense and national security interests. The report places particular emphasis on the PRC’s investments in infrastructure and sensitive sectors. It highlights China’s acquisition of technologies, expertise, and access to facilities in the civilian sector for military purposes.
Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editor-in-chief of El American. Economist. Podcaster. Political and economic analysis of America. Colombian exile in the United States // Vanessa Vallejo. Co-editora en jefe de El American. Economista. Podcaster. Análisis político y económico de América. Colombiana exiliada en EE. UU.