US National Security means giving Central and South America real attention, and honesty.
The history of US involvement in Central and South America, has as many downs as it does ups, mostly of our own doing. With China, not Russia being the most significant threat in the realm of security, largely due to its prominent placement in the global economy, we are at significant risk from their overwhelming influence south of our border.
Today, we have an overview of the serious Chinese threat to Latin America and in fact, all of the Americas.
We have a well-deserved, credibility problem south of our border, a serious one. This and a relative lack of national focus on the region has presented, first Russia and now China, opportunity in the Western hemisphere. As a matter of fact, China wields more influence in LA/ Latin America than we do. This isn’t only a threat to the people of the region, but to US and global stability. The implications for the global economy are significant. The implications for the people of LA, are worse. Allowing China too much leverage over our southern neighbors, would undoubtedly lead to the now, well-established identity traits of Chinese expansionism:
Economic coercion and economic predation
Human rights abuses
Helping the nations of the region, also serves our own national security and commercial interests. The Chinese threat is centered around the China Dream policy/ Great Chinese Rejuvenation strategy for regional hegemony by 2035 and global by 2049. Yes, Xi wishes to become Emperor or in Chinese narratives, “Son of Heaven.”
For an in-depth look at China’s intentions, please see a paper I wrote a couple of years ago. China is no one’s friend, no matter how much they deny it.
Now we’ll look at Latin America’s vulnerability to Xi’s three defining characteristics of aggression.
"The world, All-Under-Heaven, is one, with China / the “Middle Kingdom” at the center and at the pinnacle, is an Emperor or “Son of Heaven”, the sole interface with heaven with no peer. The Han are the “enlightened” while everyone outside is “barbarian” and seeking a tributary relationship with enlightened China for commerce and protection. Those who do not voluntarily seek tributary status must be persuaded or conquered militarily. This will unify All-Under-Heaven under the Chinese paradigm of world order." - Paul Cobaugh - Asia Power Watch - October 19 2020 - China’s ascension through a narrative lens
Economic coercion and economic predation
It is no secret that the region continues to experience serious economic challenges, despite finally stabilizing from the pandemic. Like most nations, these challenges are just as grounded in the same local and regional issues that they’ve experienced for decades. Inflation across the region is beyond painful for most people outside of elite, legacy wealth and foreign investment in select areas of the economies. Nations like Argentina and worst case, Brazil are experiencing inflation at levels leaving citizens struggling in all areas of their lives, brutally so.
Considering that economic predation is one of China’s most prominent aggression traits, economic insecurity leaves the door wide-open for Xi’s promises of bags full of money with exorbitant terms, much like payday loans. Collateral are key ports, airfields, canals, railways and any other sector of society that gives them geo-political leverage.
Xi uses such leverage to acquire subservience and concurrence of such nations on all matters of foreign policy. This is not just one of his most egregious tactics in LA, but all around the world. Crippling, coercive economic relationships with Xi are exactly what he wishes for with his China Dream strategy. The overall intent of global domination is to create a world not occupied by China but subservient, “tributary states.” This is part of China’s history dating back millennia.
The key to Xi’s strategy is the BRI/ Belt and Road Initiative or as they are commonly called, Silk Roads, playing on the Silk Road of Marco Polo’s adventures.
Where China goes, Human Rights abuse follows
Latin America today is today clearly engaged in one of their most serious eras of human rights abuse. Although it is not just LA, between inflation, state-sponsored assaults on human rights and liberties, but many nations in the region are experiencing the gravest of human rights abuse.
Adding Chinese dominance of any type will only exacerbate these abuses. This will make things even worse for those in LA already bearing the brunt of the suffering, due to economic reasons. Brazil under Bolsonaro was one of the worst offenders. This went hand in hand with his far-right ideology shared with other Populists in the now slightly waning era that included/ includes other leaders like Trump, Modi, Erdogan, Putin, Xi, Orban’ etc.
What Xi is doing with his wave of military engagement is part of the global realignment since the fall of the Berlin Wall, hence the Soviet Union. There are new and evolving relationships everywhere and some surprising. For example, in March of 2022, President Biden met with Colombian President Iván Duque and declared Columbia, a major, non-NATO ally. In related news, China’s influence is strong enough now in LA that all but Belize recognize China’s claim over Taiwan. This means a great deal when China wishes to increase its bullying of a US Ally and a nation where armed conflict is always a stone’s throw away.
It’s not just Chinese military visits but also includes dual use transportation infrastructure and Chinese investment in satellite technology, ports and facilities like the secretive space monitoring station in Argentina, in the Patagonia region.
There are several facets to Chinese military engagement in LA, none of them good for the people of the nations engaged with. Chinese investment almost always means that Han Chinese, imported from China get all the higher paying work at these investments, which leaves locals, low-paying, often manual labor type jobs for low pay and absent benefits.
Finally, the elephant in the room for the US.
As noted, up front, the US has a long history of activities in Latin American that leave our reputation deservedly fraught. Incursions, invasions, interventions and Cold War maneuvering is quite close to the skin for many in the region and it’s more of a bad virus than a warm compress. This is something that we must overcome because China’s steamroller of aggression is on track and rolling steadily forward from the tip of Argentina all the way to the Mexican border.
Like Africa, the competition for Latin America is fierce between the RBIO/ Rules-based International Order and, centered around economic and strategic military advantage. The only question is who will the people of the region have better success with the US and allies or a Chinese Emperor? The US has to overcome our hot and cold history in the region and develop real partnerships for economic advantage and security, not just for us but the region and in fact, global stability.
We could fill a lead role but it’s long overdue that we commit to real partnerships and work stridently towards them with partners, not supporting actors.
I will leave everyone with a couple of graphics below that should punctuate some of my comments. It’s not that we cannot have a relationship with China, and in fact, it would be prudent. We cannot allow China a dominant position though. China’s intentions are clear, and the analysis of their historical identity makes it even clearer that they will follow through on those intentions.
Vivan las naciones americanas
My best to all for your weekend,