In This Review

China, the United States, and the Future of Latin America
China, the United States, and the Future of Latin America
Edited by David B. H. Denoon
New York University Press, 2017, 432 pp
Purchase
The Red Star and the Crescent: China and the Middle East
The Red Star and the Crescent: China and the Middle East
Edited by James Reardon-Anderson
Oxford University Press, 2018, 288 pp
Purchase

China’s influence is growing in different ways in different regions with different implications for U.S. interests. In two previous volumes in Denoon’s informative series on U.S.-Chinese relations, the focus was on Central Asia, where Beijing’s goals are predominantly economic and the United States is concerned chifley with the war in Afghanistan, and on the contrasting situation in Southeast Asia, where China and the United States are engaged in a multifaceted economic and strategic competition. This third volume, dealing with Latin America and the Caribbean, presents a complex picture that lies somewhere between the previous two. Denoon and the other contributors describe China’s rapidly growing presence as a buyer of raw materials, supplier of manufactured goods, builder of infrastructure, investor, and donor. Some of the contributors believe that China is also pursuing greater military and ideological inuence in Latin America, especially with regimes that are in economic trouble or at odds with the United States, such as the one in Venezuela. With Washington doing little to shore up its position on the continent and Beijing accumulating more interests to protect, a serious challenge to U.S. preeminence in the region may not be inevitable, but it is no longer unthinkable. 

The Middle East presents yet another pattern of growing Chinese inuence, according to Reardon-Anderson and his contributors. Here, too, China has acquired major economic interests; it buys large volumes of oil, sells manufactured goods, and builds a growing proportion of the region’s infrastructure. But it lacks the capability to defend these interests militarily and so relies on the United States to preserve regional stability and protect the crucial sea-lanes over which tankers carry oil to China. The funding China offers through its Belt and Road Initiative is less useful to wealthy Gulf states than it is to countries in other parts of the world, and Beijing’s mistreatment of its Muslim Uighur minority creates friction with Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. Instead of challenging the United States, China often acts as a tacit ally—for example, in pressing Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program and helping rehabilitate the Iraqi oil industry. This book breaks new ground on Chinese military diplomacy in the Middle East, Chinese mediation in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, and the history of religious ties between China and the Middle East.