The Hale Podcast: Evan Ellis on China in the Western Hemisphere - Episode 23
As China & Latin America Grow Closer, What Could Go Wrong?
Where will the next crisis be? The very definition of a crisis is that we won’t know until it happens. Worn down by the pandemic, and with our attention riveted on the European and Pacific theaters, is the US ignoring irreversible changes in its own hemisphere?
R Evan Ellis, one of our original EconVue experts, has been writing about China’s engagement with Latin America since it first began. His books include China in Latin America: The Whats and Wherefores (2009), The Strategic Dimension of Chinese Engagement with Latin America, and China on the Ground in Latin America as well as more than 130 published articles.
Dr Ellis is currently research professor of Latin American Studies at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, with a focus on the region’s relationships with China and other non-Western Hemisphere actors such as Russia and Iran. His full bio can be found on the EconVue website.
During our podcast, he offers a disturbing tour d’horizon of the changing political and economic landscape in Central and South America.
Although the outcome is not inevitable, Latin America and the Caribbean are currently on the precipice of a downward spiral into populist authoritarian governments, economic collapse, social unrest, and expanded presence and influence of China across the hemisphere—and it does not look like ‘the calvary is coming’ to turn the situation around. Although those dynamics are just now becoming clear, numerous reinforcing dynamics are driving the strategic environment of the region in a very troubling direction. For the moment, the skies of the region are still mostly clear, but the storm is coming.
China has offered an alternative to the historic presence of US and European interests in Latin America, especially in the technological realm. What challenge does this pose to US economic interests?
The consequences also go beyond government. The dynamics anticipated herein have grave implications for U.S. firms doing business in the region, as well as for nongovernmental organizations and other entities with a significant presence there.
Latin America is an energy, resources, and agricultural powerhouse. Dr Ellis says that only two, perhaps three countries in the region remain within the sphere of US influence. My concern is lack of transparency and financial fragility, due to the Covid-era increase in dollar-denominated debt, as interest rates and the dollar begin to rise.
I asked Dr Ellis if he thought we needed a new Monroe Doctrine. You can hear his answer on the Hale Report, and find links to his most recent writing below. Please feel free to share this post on a critical topic that has not yet received the attention it merits.
Articles by Evan Ellis
Jan. 19, 2022 / Global Americans
In the context of the indirect threat this week by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov to “not rule out” deploying military forces to Venezuela and Cuba, the present article looks at the broader structure and current state of Russian engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Jan. 14, 2022 / Small War Journal
This article examines the dynamics among Chavista-affiliated elites, armed groups, and extra-hemispheric actors in Venezuela, and the dangerous instability of the situation in the country, even if a “restoration of democracy” is among the least likely outcomes.
Jan. 14, 2022 / CSIS
The article examines the historically unprecedented turn to the Left, and to authoritarian populist regimes, across in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Jan. 12, 2022 / The Diplomat (with Leland Lazarus)
Amid the economic and public health challenges of COVID-19, Beijing has steadily deepened its engagement with the region.
Dec. 31, 2021/ EconVue
I believe the year will begin with a number of causes for hope that the political shift in the region and China’s advance will not have consequences as negative as feared…yet I see an accumulating set of likely challenges that, by mid-year, will put that optimism to the test.
October 2021 / Latin American Studies Association
China’s influence is already increasingly at the heart of Latin America’s economic connectivity. Its growing influence, often with a friendly face, will make it increasingly difficult for scholars and businesspeople with interests tied to China to speak out. It will become increasingly complicated for regulators and government leaders to block Chinese investments and proposals on antitrust grounds.
We welcome your comments and your subscription to our free podcast series, The Hale Report. Our next podcast is with Elizabeth Economy, Senior Advisor for China at the US Department of Commerce.
With all best wishes,