China, whose presence in Latin America until now was largely based on an appetite for raw materials, is diversifying investments by financing much-needed development projects, analysts say.
On its 50th anniversary, the G77+China bloc of developing nations are meeting at a summit that began yesterday in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to promote economic development. Delegations from 133 countries and about three dozen heads of state are to attend.
“China now acts in a different way with South American countries,” said Gabriel Dabdoub, president of the chamber of commerce of the Santa Cruz region, Bolivia’s economic engine.
The Asian power “no longer aims at only at buying raw materials, it wants to get into investing in industrialization,” Dabdoub said.
Bolivia, Latin America’s poorest country, has experienced more than 6 percent growth in recent years and is planning major infrastructure projects.
“China is particularly attracted by industrialization projects that the country needs over the next 10 years and which cost an estimated US$42 billion,” Dabdoub said.
Chinese firms have expressed interest most notably in building a railway from Bolivia to Brazil, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as in road and river connection projects.
On a trip to Brasilia, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affaurs Wang Yi (王毅) announced Beijing’s interest in boosting its investments and ties with Latin America and Caribbean nations. Though Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) will be notably absent from the Santa Cruz summit, he plans to attend a meeting of emerging economic powers Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa in Brazil next month.
Mass purchase of raw materials and sales of manufactured goods have made China the No. 2 trading partner of several countries in the region in recent years. In 2009, China surpassed the US as Brazil’s No. 1 trading partner.
“Until recently, Bolivia did not consider China a partner, it was very wary, but now there is more trade and, in fact, we’ve just acquired a satellite,” Dabdoub said.
Bolivian President Evo Morales traveled to China with several ministers in December last year to attend the launch of Tupac Katari, his country’s first telecommunications satellite.
China loaned US$102.2 billion to Latin American countries between 2005 and last year, particularly to Venezuela and Argentina, a report released in April by the Global Economic Governance Initiative at Boston University said.
Last year, alone, Beijing loaned Latin American governments, public enterprises and private companies US$20.1 billion.
“Today, in terms of trade and investment, China is displacing the region’s traditional partners like Europe and the US,” Bolivian Institute of Foreign Trade president Gary Rodriguez said.
China “certainly plays a greater role in the new millennium and will strengthen its commercial expansion by coming together with Latin America,” Bolivian analyst and former foreign minister Armando Loayza said.
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