SANTA CRUZ DE LA SIERRA: 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.
At a summit, opening Saturday in Santa Cruz, the G77 + China group of developing nations meets on its 50th anniversary to promote economic development.
Delegations from 133 countries and some three dozen heads of state will be in attendance.
“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 powerhouse “no longer aims at only at buying raw materials, it wants to get into investing in industrialisation,” Dabdoub said.
Bolivia, Latin America’s poorest country, has experienced more than 6 percent growth in recent years and has plans for major infrastructure work.
“China is particularly attracted by industrialisation projects that the country needs over the next 10 years and which cost an estimated $42bn,” Dabdoub said.
Chinese companies 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. In Brasilia, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently announced his country’s interest in increasing its investments and relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean.
And although Chinese President Xi Jinping will be notably absent from the Santa Cruz summit, he plans to participate mid-July in Brazil in a BRICS meeting of emerging economic powers Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Mass purchase of raw materials and sale of manufactured goods have made China the second trading partner of a number of countries in the region in recent years. And in 2009, China became Brazil’s number one trading partner, ahead of the United States.
“Until recently Bolivia did not consider China a partner, it was very wary,” Dabdoub said. “But now there is more trade, and, in fact, we’ve just acquired a satellite.”
Bolivian President Evo Morales last December travelled to China with several ministers to attend the launch of Tupac Katari, his country’s first telecommunications satellite. China provided $102.2bn in loans to Latin American countries between 2005 and 2013, particularly to Venezuela and Argentina. Last year, alone, China loaned Latin American governments, public enterprises and private companies $20.1bn. AFP