The U.S. Is Overstating China’s Influence in Latin America

The U.S. Is Overstating China’s Influence in Latin America
Then-Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping delivers a speech in Santiago, Chile, June 10, 2011 (AP photo by Aliosha Marquez).

Heightened tensions between the U.S. and China have many observers likening their strategic competition to a geopolitical struggle reminiscent of the Cold War. While the focus of that competition is in Asia, it extends to all the world’s regions, particularly where China has made inroads into what were historically regarded as U.S. spheres of influence, like Latin America.

In recent years, Beijing has established a strong foothold in the region, causing anxiety in Washington about China’s desire to blunt U.S. influence there. These fears have intensified amid the recent resurgence of left-wing and nationalist governments, particularly in South America. China’s demand for Latin American commodities and the region’s demand for Chinese consumer goods are the pillars of this relationship, which is reinforced by shared distrust of the U.S. and a mutual interest in rewriting the rules of the international system. But although Beijing has made considerable gains in the region at Washington’s expense, claims about China’s influence there might be overstated.

Over the past two decades, China has cemented its status as the largest trading partner for the region’s heavyweights like Brazil, Chile and Argentina. In addition, trade between China and Latin America reached an all-time high of $450 billion in 2021, making it the region’s second-largest trading partner, behind the U.S., and South America’s top trading partner.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.