With wallet in hand, the Chinese regime has been investing in recent decades in huge infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia, its natural area of ​​influence, but also in Latin America and with special effort in Africa, not only as part of its ambitious plan Belt and Road but to become a strategic partner of developing countries.

The trade war waged since the Trump administration has not lowered its tone with Joe Biden although he has turned the confrontation more towards geopolitics and military power, looking with suspicion at the closeness of China to Russia, establishing defense alliances with Australia, India, Japan and the United Kingdom.

But it’s not just the United States. NATO, which has Washington as its spearhead, approved its new Strategic Concept at the end of June, in which it includes China for the first time, considering it “a challenge”. “China is not our adversary, but we must keep our eyes open to the serious challenges it represents,” The Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, said at the Madrid summit.

And it went further: “Russia and China continue to seek political, economic and military benefits in our southern neighbourhood. Both Moscow and Beijing are using economic influence, coercion and hybrid approaches to advance their interests in the region.”he warned.

Statements that, of course, had a response from Beijing: “Is there any war or conflict in these years in which NATO has not been involved? China has never started a war or invaded other countries.”proclaimed Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian.

“The concerns are more economic and technological, but we are not in a war between democracy and dictatorship, or capitalism and communism. I think the US authorities’ attempt to frame this as a fight between good and evil is to bolster their allies, but many of the leaders of the developing world, the so-called Global South, no longer buy this discourse.”, the political scientist tells El Comercio Cynthia Sanborn, researcher and professor of Political Science at the Universidad del Pacífico.

And this discourse continues to be reinforced from Washington. like what he said Antony Blink the head of US diplomacy, during the NATO summit in Madrid, where he accused China of “try to undermine the rules-based international order.”

“There are certain democratic countries that buy this argument. But most of the countries in Asia do not understand what the international order means and the characteristics that it entails. The US will find it difficult to convince Asian countries on this.”also explains to El Comercio Sovinda Po, Research Associate at the Cambodian Institute for Peace and Cooperation, and PhD candidate at Griffith University, Australia.

Sanborn recalls that the United States changed its discourse and the interpretation of its relationship with China since the Obama administration, but it was reinforced much more with Trump. “And Biden has maintained that hostility,” he adds. “It is also true that the Xi Jinping government has tightened the screws more within China and has had much more centralized positions, but the US has turned towards a position of hostility and confrontation, which has more to do with politics. American Domestic”.

Conquering the world

While the allied powers begin to worry about China, the Asian giant continues to do business and invest millions in expanding its interests throughout the planet. A kind of ‘soft power’ recharged, with a lot of cement and yuan.

After the blow to their image caused by the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese regime opted for ‘health diplomacy’, providing masks and vaccines to developing countries, while continuing to promote its infrastructure projects in which it has been investing for decades, such as the construction of roads, bridges or hospitals, as well as mining and co-participation in agricultural development, which means that it meets the incessant demand for natural resources that it needs to supply a population of 1,400 millions of people.

An interesting point is Beijing’s commitment to port concessions, in order to secure its supply chain and have commercial and economic influence in the countries where they invest. According to a BBC report, Chinese companies control about 100 ports in more than 60 countries.

“Chinese companies want the ports with the idea of dominate the entire supply chain. Economic influence empowers you to have more political influence, and then you use that political influence to gain more economic advantage. It’s a cycle”comments Evan Ellis, research professor of Latin American Studies at the Institute for Strategic Studies of the United States Army War College, to the British network.

Without going too far, an example is the Chancay port megaproject operated by the Chinese company Cosco, and whose investment could reach US$3 billion by 2024, when the end of the works is calculated.

Late reaction

Although China has taken the accelerator out of some works in recent years -it gave up, for example, buying agricultural land in Argentina to bet on investing directly in agricultural and livestock companies-, they still continue to inject a lot of money so that their companies have a presence in areas strategic areas of Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. And of course they have done it before the eyes of the United States and Europe.

“It seems that the United States and the West have not designed an effective strategy to counter China’s influence. If they want to do it effectively, they need to invest more financial resources as China has done. We have to wait and see if the West is willing to do it.” Po points out.

Investment projects on the African continent have served to write hundreds of analyzes on Chinese strategy in a part of the world where they found the ground served to implement their plans. It is only necessary to advance a couple of figures: in 2020, the annual flow of direct investment from China in Africa was almost 3 billion dollars, according to a report by the Shanghai University of International Business and Economics. While that year the stock of its investment exceeded US$43 billion.

At the last G7 meeting in late June, Western leaders advanced a US$600 billion commitment for global infrastructure programs in developing countries. Although the amount is considerable, it is insufficient if they want to win the fight against the Chinese.

The eyes in Latin America

Although in Latin America, Chinese investment is not equal to what happened in Africa, the countries of the region are no strangers to the Chinese presence, at the same time that we see how the United States continues without having us as a priority, a vision that did not help improve the recent Summit of the Americas.

“During the 1960s and 1970s there was a large US presence in Latin America, including in infrastructure, precisely as part of the war against communism. But since the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the United States has not had the same level of presence and concern for the region.” Sanborn explains.

“The geopolitical priorities of the United States have been in the Middle East, and now in China and Asia. The level of business and investment that China is doing with the rest of the world is something that the US cannot match.”

The expert adds that it is important to note that US investments are usually private, while China has state-owned companies or companies that are aligned with the State and that were developed in the infrastructure and construction sector. “USA. it withdrew a lot from this sector and opted more for support in strengthening democracy or a free press, which are positive things, but Latin America demands ports, bridges, highways or hospitals”, Sanborn points out.

Another worrying issue -he adds- is that there are eight Latin American countries, including Brazil and Chile, in which the United States has not appointed ambassadors. “This is due to a political blockade between Congress and the Executive, but it is a sign that the US does not have the presence it should have in Latin America if it intends to compete with China.”

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