China signed an agreement with Latin America’s leaders to improve ties. Analysts compared this to a plan to take over the Caribbean.

As part of the deal, Beijing has committed to supplying the region with ‘civilian’ nuclear technology, helping to develop ‘peaceful’ space programmes, building 5G networks of the kind Washington warns will be used to spy on people, and to pumping in cheap loans and financing for ‘elaborate development plans.’

China pledged even to fund schools in China and teach Chinese culture and language, but such institutions were criticized elsewhere for being biased and restricted academic freedom.

It comes off the back of decades of Chinese investment and development in Latin America and the Caribbean which has seen hundreds of billions of dollars poured into the region to build critical infrastructure such as ports, roads, and power plants in what many believe is an attempt to buy power and influence in America’s back yard. 

Mateo Haydar from the Heritage Foundation, who is a researcher, said that China wants to dominate Latin America. 

China has pumped cheap money into Latin America and the Caribbean for years, indebting governments and effectively buying influence. Where it has been unable to loan or buy, it has used armies of cheap workers to build key infrastructure projects, giving it outsized influence. And those ties are set to deepen with the signing of a new cooperation pact

China has been a major investor in Latin America and the Caribbean over many years. Its cheap money has helped to build influence and indebt governments. It has employed cheap labour to create key infrastructure projects where it was unable or unwilling to lend money. These ties will deepen after the signing of a new cooperative pact 

China-US share of trade 2000

China-US share of trade 2019

This new agreement includes large promises for the countries of the region to strengthen ties with Beijing in many sectors, including trade. China has overtaken the US in recent years to be the largest trading partner in the region (left and right). 

“The threat is broad and there are both a military and security interest in that area. … That threat is growing, and it’s a different kind of threat than what we saw with the Soviets,’ he told the Washington Examiner.

Professor Evan Ellis, of the U.S. Army War College, added: ‘The Chinese don’t say, “We want to take over Latin America,” but they clearly set out a multidimensional engagement strategy, which, if successful, would significantly expand their leverage and produce enormous intelligence concerns for the United States.’

According to official documents, this deal was called “Joint Action Plan for Cooperation in Key Areas”. It was signed between China, CELAC (an alliance of Latin American States and Caribbean States) last month. The agreement covers almost all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as major players such Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela.

The document is vague in terms of specifics but provides an overview for China and other countries within the region, up to 2024. This roadmap commits both sides to deepening their ties with banks, corporations, governments and education institutions.

Although most of the pledges are routine (e.g., to conserve the environment, create green tech and promote equality and sustainable development), some may give the Pentagon’s mind pause.

First, a promise to promote nuclear technology exchange and’relevant practical initiatives’. This includes training nuclear scientists in order to “bring into use the advantages of nuclear technology as well as nuclear energy.”

It is clear that the deal will be ‘peaceful’. The agreement also commits parties to working towards ‘nuclear destruction’. But, it should be noted that the technology used for enriching nuclear fuel could be repurposed in order to produce weapons-grade material suitable to be used as bombs.

Washington is also issuing more frequent warnings regarding Chinese firms that have provided assistance to the military over recent months. Washington is likely to fear any civil nuclear companies which are established in South America will be used for dual purposes.

China’s commitment to develop space programs to ‘peaceful explore of space’ may also be cause for concern.

Beijing tried in the past to hide the launch spy satellites’ mission as communications. However, Beijing recently denied that the probe had been used to test a hypersonic orbital nuclear bomb.

China has used a similar pattern of cheap loans, construction projects and purchases of key infrastructure to buy up influence in Africa which it hopes will help it out-compete the US. Beijing has now built its first overseas military base in the region (marked on the map) and is thought to be scouting a site for a second

China is using a similar strategy of buying influence in Africa, purchasing key infrastructure and taking out cheap loans to build projects, as well as buying construction materials. This will enable it to compete with the US. Beijing is currently scouting for another site to build its second overseas military base.

China has pumped at least $7billion in investment into the Caribbean since 2005, records show, though the true figure - when taking into account soft loan deals and private investment - is thought to run well into the tens of billions. Showpiece projects have included a cricket stadium in Grenada, a casino and resort in the Bahamas, and acquiring Jamaica's largest port

Records show that China has invested $7 billion into the Caribbean in 2005. But the truth – including soft loan deals – could be well over the tens to billions. Highlight projects include the construction of a Grenada Cricket Stadium, a Bahamas casino, resort, and the purchase of Jamaica’s largest port.

The agreement includes a commitment by both sides to cooperate in the construction of ground infrastructure to support space programs. This raises the possibility of such technology being launched, controlled, or monitored right from America’s shores.

It isn’t the only place where South American technology and Chinese technology could combine. It also promises greater cooperation in the areas of ‘digital infrastructure and telecommunications equipment. [and] 5G.’

Since the discovery that Beijing was leading the charge in building the new global information network, the US and China have been engaged in proxy war for many years.

Mike Pompeo (ex-US Secretary of State) pushed the Trump Administration to convince western countries and US allies not to use the technology in later years. Pompeo warned that it could be used for spying on its users.

South American countries are at the heart of the conflict, trying to please both Beijing AND DC. Jair Bolsonaro was a Brazilian president who is also a close ally of Trump. He initially promised to block Huawei from its network. But that position changed when Trump took office.

The text of the agreement indicates that it’s a fight that will continue for some time.

China and Latin American countries have agreed to collaborate directly with their militaries. This is allegedly for fighting terrorists and taking down organized criminal networks.

They stated they will share knowledge, policy, technology and experience in dealing with threats. It suggests that there is some intelligence sharing and cooperation between the militaries of both sides.

Others pledges seem to continue infrastructure projects in the region that were built under China’s billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. 

These include the deepening of ties in trade and financial markets, including investment and loans for ‘elaborate development plans’, and helping with the ‘transition towards green energy’ by building new power plants.

China also promised to support oil, gas, and mining exploration. However, claims that green projects will have priority over fossil fuels are not supported.

The last pledge to be concerned is that China will build Confucius Institutes and Classrooms. These schools and educational programs are aimed at learning Chinese language, culture and history.

But the institutions have been accused of spreading false information and Chinese state propaganda, including by one of China’s own officials – senior CCP leader Li Changchun – who once described the schools as ‘an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up’.

As part of the agreement, China will help to develop the space programmes of Latin American nations including the 'construction of ground infrastructure' in the region (pictured, China launches a satellite from its territory on December 30)

As part of the agreement, China will help to develop the space programmes of Latin American nations including the ‘construction of ground infrastructure’ in the region (pictured, China launches a satellite from its territory on December 30)

China is in talks with Argentina to build a new nuclear reactor at its Atucha complex (pictured), and has pledged to share more nuclear technology with South American countries over the next two years

China is in talks with Argentina to build a new nuclear reactor at its Atucha complex (pictured), and has pledged to share more nuclear technology with South American countries over the next two years

China will also establishing a growing number of Confucius Institutes in the region - schools that teach Chinese language and 'culture', but which the US says actually push state propaganda on children

China will also establishing a growing number of Confucius Institutes in the region – schools that teach Chinese language and ‘culture’, but which the US says actually push state propaganda on children

Washington has designated the headquarters of the Confucius Institutes in the US as a Chinese foreign mission – meaning it is owned or controlled by the state – with Mike Pompeo accusing the schools of ‘advancing Beijing’s global propaganda and malign influence campaign’.

The latest agreement in the long list of loans, trade and construction deals in Latin America and Caribbean has seen Beijing expand its economic power while America is weakening.

China’s three most powerful state investment banks have lent $140billion worth of funds to Latin America countries since 2005. This money has been used to finance everything: nuclear power stations, dams, roads, railways and ports.

Billions more have been borrowed via deals with private financial initiatives, commercial banks, and other deal types that are difficult to track. However, researchers found they can sometimes outweigh deals made on the books.

China’s trade with Latin America has increased more than 25-fold, from $12billion to $315billion by 2020, as nearly half the country in the region witnessed their biggest trading partner change from the US to China. This includes three of America’s largest economies, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia.

This gives China leverage on international stages, allowing it to win votes at UN and isolating its foes. China often demands that countries cut all diplomatic ties to Taiwan before they will give over any money.

China has signed on to the Belt and Road Initiative, which is a $1trillion global construction project. It aims to increase trade and improve infrastructure that will benefit China over time.

Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama are notable partners. They also have a lot of debt to China.

Cuba is another country to have signed up for Belt and Road. This week, Cuba announced it would receive Chinese aid to modernize its power grid with a special focus on renewables.

Carlos Miguel Pereira from Cuba, Cuba’s Ambassador to Beijing made this announcement at an energy conference attended by Belt and Road member countries, which invited Chinese investors and companies to participate.

The US is now pushing back. Biden sent diplomatic teams to South America in September to take his Build Back Better initiative, which began as a plan to rebuild America after Covid, global.

Listening tours were developed to find projects that America might be interested in, and offer to China better quality products with a track record of delivery.

China, for example, helped Ecuador to build hydroelectric dams in the past decade. However, the Coca Codo Sinclair Dam, which was built by Ecuador, has had major issues, including oil spillages and cracks.

The answer is “Very few.” [China’s]Biden Administration officials stated at that time, “Projects make economic sense but they frequently have very poor labor standards and environmental standards.”

 A BW3 event is planned for early next year where more details will be announced including project funding, though so-far no commitments have been given about the amount of cash that will be spent.