In Latin America, the rivalry has recently led to a public relations battle over which superpowers can provide ventilators and PPE during the epidemic, outrage over a Chinese deepwater fishing fleet and the adoption of Huawei technology in the 5G network Pressured anew.
Now, the US seems intent on combating China’s growing commercial influence in the region, with a program challenging Beijing’s involvement in infrastructure development and energy mega-projects.
On a recent visit to Suriname and Guyana – both of which have recently undergone major offshore oil discoveries – Mike Pompeo made a direct sales pitch on behalf of American companies.
“No state-owned operation can beat the quality of products and services of American private companies,” the US Secretary of State said. “We have seen that the Chinese Communist Party invests in countries, and it all sounds great on the front end and then it all happens when the political costs associated with it become clear.”
Pompeo – the first Secretary of State to visit the country – also used the opportunity for both countries to sign up for development in the US program, more often referred to as the US Cress, its Spanish translation, which ” Seeks to catalyze private sector investment “. In Latin America and the Caribbean ”.
The project is seen as a direct response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a $ 1.5tn foreign and economic policy to establish maritime trade and invest in infrastructure projects in dozens of countries .
Nineteen countries in the region have signed the BRI, with Chinese firms – many of them partially state-owned – winning major mining, energy and transportation projects. Since 2005, China-based firms have invested more than $ 123bn in the region and Chinese banks have lent $ 137bn.
“It is clear that America is an American response to the Crece BRI; Pompeo has consistently criticized what he considers the circumstances associated with Chinese infrastructure loans, ”said Rob-Sutar, managing editor of Dialago Chino, a website specializing in Sino-Latin America relations.
“Inside China, many academics saw America Cress as America’s attempt to control Latin America as its unique sphere of influence – a new version of the Monroe Doctrine,” he said.
In September 2018, the US recalled its top diplomats in Panama, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic, as countries ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan and established relations with China.
But since then, US pressure appears to have increased, the growth of the BRI partnership has slowed, and Chinese investment in strategic countries such as Panama has been rapidly colliding.
America’s CRISE program does not provide a new budget for regional infrastructure projects, but it gives US policy a name and a direction.
“BRI wants to create infrastructure that supports Chinese interests – built by Chinese companies and with Chinese banks making money on loan. In contrast, US Cress includes projects with business affairs that make sense for the region And support good governance, ”said Dr. Ivan Ellis, a professor of Latin American Studies at the Institute of Strategic Studies of the US Army War College.
Soutar said that Chinese investment depends entirely on previous deals with Beijing, no longer right. “In recent years there has been a big change in the way Chinese companies invest in the sector. Increasingly, they invest in equity or form international consortiums to win competitive tenders, such as the Bogota Metro System. ”
And while the US Cress is theoretically open to investment from all countries, Colombian President Ivan Duke’s program description as a “new phase of Plan Colombia” has given ammunition to those who call it lucrative contracts for US companies As a way of securing.
As part of the 2000–16 plan, Colombia – which focused on tackling the nation’s twin guerrillas and narco-trafficking problems – owed much of the $ 10 billion in aid to US arms and security firms.
American diplomatic efforts in Latin America have been revived in recent years, following a decline in the list of US foreign policy priorities under the Obama administration. Donald Trump has sought to attract votes in Florida, taking a tough stance on socialist governments in Cuba and Venezuela, but the need to oppose China’s “predatory trade practices” is one of the few things Republicans and Democrats agree.
The new, straight-talking strategy is designed to antagonize China.
The Chinese embassy in Suriname said, “We advise Mr. Pompeo to respect facts and truth, to sacrifice arrogance and prejudice, to spread rumors about China and to stop spreading rumors.”
And when geopolitical rivals seek to gain influence over natural resources, infrastructure, and trade routes, Latin America’s best interests can bypass themselves, Soutar said.
“Both BRI and US Cress invest heavily in fossil fuel infrastructure, locking Latin America in a high carbon growth path. The region is in dire need of investment to rebuild after Kovid, but if it must be channeled towards low-carbon, climate-resilient development to generate sustained, long-term gains. ”