China's Expanding Ties with Latin America and the Caribbean

May 14, 2024
A conversation between Bonnie Glaser and Leland Lazarus discussing China’s expanding ties in Latin America and the Caribbeans, colloquially referred to as “LAC.”

In the past few weeks, China’s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean have been making headlines. Newsweek published an exclusive story about plans to create a Chinese-run special economic zone on the island of Antigua that will have a port, a dedicated airline, its own customs and immigration procedures, and be able to issue passports. An international crypto services zone will offer opportunities to participate in cryptocurrency operations from mining to dealing.

The Americas Quarterly reported that China has expressed interest in building a port complex near the Strait of Magellan at the southern tip of South America, which is considered the most important natural passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. From there, according to the Americas Quarterly, Beijing could grow its presence in the region and also project influence in Antarctica.

And in late April, China held the first China-Latin American and Caribbean States Space Cooperation Forum, which opened with a congratulatory letter from Xi Jinping applauding the high-level space cooperation partnership in which he emphasized the benefits of marrying China’s mature space technology with the unique geographic advantage of the countries in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

To discuss Chinese interests in and strategy toward the Latin America and Caribbean region–known as the LAC–host Bonnie Glaser is joined by Leland Lazarus. He is the Associate Director of National Security at Florida International University’s Jack D. Gordon Institute of Public Policy and an expert on China-Latin America relations. He formerly served as the Special Assistant and Speechwriter to the Commander of US Southern Command and as a State Department Foreign Service Officer, with postings in Barbados and China.

Editorial Correction: Regarding the statement on the price of Huawei's equipment, it is approximately 30% cheaper than Nokia or Ericcson, rather than one-third the price. 

Episode Highlights:

[02:30] China’s Interest in LAC Countries

[04:44] Implementation of BRI in LAC Countries

[07:23] China’s Investment in Energy Development

[09:39] Huawei’s Penetration into LAC Countries

[11:57] Role of Perú in Beijing’s Regional Strategy

[14:56] China-LAC Cooperation in Space

[20:56] Receptivity of China to LAC Countries

[25:30] How should the US compete against China in LAC?