Leading experts on Chinese–Latin American relations puncture lazy myths and widespread hyperbole in this valuable collection of well-edited essays. Chinese investments and foreign assistance in the region, although noteworthy, are not nearly as significant as many assume, and many Chinese projects announced with great fanfare remain in limbo, including a $50-billion-plus Nicaraguan canal. Overall, the contributors are sanguine about Chinese motives, finding that China’s commercial goals take precedence over its possible geopolitical aims—at least for now. A number of the authors note that generous Chinese lending, notably to Venezuela, might have enabled irresponsible populist spending. And some Chinese firms have violated regional norms by damaging natural environments, harming indigenous communities, and possibly engaging in corrupt practices. But Chinese businesses are learning, and their practices seem to be improving. Looking forward, if the United States confronts Latin America with less attractive policies on trade, investment, and labor movement, China may be tempted to fill the resulting vacuum. The transformation of China’s benign commercial interests into geopolitical ambitions may arrive sooner than the contributors to this volume—assembled prior to the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president—could possibly have anticipated.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.
More Reviews on Western Hemisphere From This Issue