This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Showing posts with label China. Show all posts
Showing posts with label China. Show all posts

Thursday, August 06, 2009

First TV segment! CNN Int’l - Connect the World

Just a quick note to say that I'll be on CNN International today at 16:30 EST, talking about Mexican drug trafficking organizations.

More details on the book blog.

Tune in if you can!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sino-Brazilian Naval relations

The Chief of Staff of the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force recently met with Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guianglie in Ningbo, Zhejiang province, China to review China's East Fleet.

Many analysts agree that Naval control over the waters of East Asia will again become a contest (as it was during WWII) as China's Navy, known as the PLAN, continues its rapid development.

Japan, especially is worried, as is the United States.

But what I find more interesting is Brazil's role in China's naval development.

Below, my research assistant Kelsey Price, has prepared a backgrounder on Sino-Brazilian naval relations, including Brazil's offer to train the Chinese on the use of aircraft carriers - something the PLAN has yet to deploy.


As China attempts to solidify its place as an emerging world power, its leaders have placed more emphasis on building a stronger navy. At the forefront of this naval initiative is the construction of, and training for, China’s first aircraft carrier. Russia has sold China its former carrier Varyag (renamed the Shi Lang), and China has been slowly updating the craft since its docking at a Chinese shipyard in 2002. Analysts conclude that China’s navy, or PLAN, may use the ship for training and as a base for the construction of two of its own carriers.

Brazil is looking for international significance as well, so when PLAN turned to Brazil’s aircraft carrier-trained crew to train China’s navy, the Latin American power agreed to invite Chinese naval personnel aboard the Sao Paolo, Brazil’s only aircraft carrier. While the two BRIC nations—part of a group with Russia and India—both benefit from the military favor, China had very few choices. Brazil is one of only four nations to maintain an aircraft carrier capable of launching and recovering conventional aircraft, and the only one willing or able to train PLAN personnel. The United States has little interest in training the navy of a country it sees as a potential threat; EU law prohibits France from helping; and China’s relationship with Russia is hampered by an intellectual property dispute over Chinese fighter aircraft.

China clearly benefits from the naval training, but Brazil’s reward for helping China is less material than political. Brazil strengthens its reputation as a global force, especially when it assists a country as powerful as China. It also establishes stronger relations between the two countries, which formerly concentrated on economic ties and shared inclusion in the emerging BRIC nations.

Brazil and China’s other BRIC partners—India specifically—have expressed concern over PLAN’s technological advancement. India has declared China to be its “biggest threat.” China’s Major General Qian Lihua, director of the ministry’s Foreign Affairs office, assured, “Even if one day we have an aircraft carrier, unlike another country, we will not use it to pursue global deployment or global reach.” China’s President Hu Jintao also claimed that he did not seek regional hegemony or an arms race; rather, China would use its navy to pursue international cooperation in peacekeeping and anti-piracy enforcement.

The United States suspects other motives. A US Congressional Report for the People in May suggested that China may plan to use its improved navy to create conflict with Taiwan, and perhaps to prevent US intervention in the dispute. China may also use its threatening aircraft carrier to assert itself in the region, especially regarding its claims in territorial and freedom of navigation disputes. Its strengthened place as a world power may also convince other countries to align its policies with China, and displace US influence in the region. These concerns have prompted the US navy to pursue increased monitoring of China’s actions and to send more personnel to the Pacific.

Bates Gill, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, considers the very display of China’s navy a non-verbal threat to other countries. PLAN celebrated its 60th anniversary by including 52 navy vessels and aircraft in maneuvers off the eastern port of Qingdao in April. "Showing what you have can always also act as a deterrent - that's how it's seen in the US," said Mr Gill. "When the US navy takes an aircraft carrier to Hong Kong, it also tells the Chinese, have a look, you don't want to confront this."

Brazil and China’s rise in international influence—and displacement of US influence—is expedited by a visibly strong navy, and the partnership forming between the two nations suggests the emergence of a strong BRIC allegiance without the sway of the United States.


“Beijing’s aircraft carrier will convert Asian oceans into Chinese lakes.” 28 May, 2009. Rupee News delivered by Newstex.

Farley, Robert. “The New China-Brazil axis.” 27 May 2009. The Progressive Realist.

“Brazil/China consolidate energy, trade and finance partnership.” 19 May, 2009. South Atlantic news agency MercoPress.

Ansari, Moin. “BRIC-battered: The growing Brazil china axis and fraying Indo-Russia deals.” 27 May, 2009. Rupee News.

“China has aircraft carrier hopes.” 17 November 2008. BBC.

Hille, Katherin. “China’s show of sea power challenges US.” 24 April 2009. The Financial Times.

“China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities -- Background and Issues for Congress.” 29 May 2009. Open CRS, Congressional Report for the People.

See “China’s show of sea power challenges US,” Financial Times.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hutchinson-Whampoa Drops Manta Concession

The world's largest container-terminal operator, Hutchinson-Whampoa, will drop its concession to modernize and operate Ecuador's deep water port at Manta, according to a 6 February Bloomberg report.

This news comes after a 3 January speech by President Correa, who said Hutchinson would have to leave the country if it did not develop Manta according to the government's wished.

It is an "unacceptable" position, according to Hutchinson.

This is an interesting turn of events. On one hand, I believe Correa was speaking to a domestic audience, eager for him to make nationalistic statements.

On the other, Hutchinson doesn't need Manta. It is the closes port to China across the pacific, but apparently ports in Peru, Chile, Panama, and Mexico are just as if not more attractive.

I suspect Correa may be lobbying to win back his Chinese investors. We'll see if he does or not.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Peru, dollars, and China

Word has come through that Peru is talking about swapping out its local currency for dollars amidst negotiations for a major loan. But the most interesting aspect of this economic news is that the Peruvian government is talking to the United States and China.

The Peruvian Finance Minister, Luis Valdivieso, said Peru is looking for some US$ 9 billion in loans to help finance some $35 billion in development projects.

Considering the change of the Presidential guard next week and other issues around the world, the US might stall - or prolong - the negotiations in the face of increasingly drastic Peruvian need. It will be interesting to see if China bails out Peru, with a long-term strategic look at what Peru has to offer in return, apart from repaying the loan and what Garcia has already given China by way of mining concessions...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Monroe Doctrine: Circling the Drain

Many of the legacies left by George W. Bush will focus on the War on Terror and Iraq. In Latin America, however, his legacy will be one that always remembers how Latin America was lost on his watch. As President Bush closes out his final months in office, many in Washington lament that the Monroe Doctrine, the foundation of Washington’s soft power in Latin America, is circling the drain and nearly dead.

Iran, China and Russia are certainly helping it along, but they would be in no position to do so if the present White House had simply lived up to what President Bush promised in his first presidential campaign: closer ties with Latin America. If anything, however, President Bush has distanced himself farther from Latin America than any president in recent history, creating a vacuum that has been steadily filled by patron nations not motivated by Washington’s best interests.

On 22 September Russian Naval cruiser, Peter the Great, set sail with two other ships for Venezuela where they will take part in naval exercises in the Caribbean. Russian bombers recently left Venezuela after a number of training missions off the Venezuelan coast, and a long time Russian spy, now Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Sechin recently made his rounds through Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua at the head of a large delegation of diplomats and business leaders.

The Russians are courting Bolivia, offering helicopters to help combat organized crime and drug traffickers. Meanwhile, Bolivia has announced it will move its Middle Eastern embassy from Egypt to Iran, a county now hard wired to Venezuela with at least one weekly flight.

A runway built by the US military in Manta, Ecuador, may soon be used to receive regular flights from China, and there are talks to open an international deep water port in Manta, making Ecuador a primary link between South America and growing business interests out of China.

Hutchinson-Wampoa, the company that controls ports on both sides of the Panama Canal has shown considerable interest in building in operating the Manta port, as well as a deep water port in northern Mexico.

The Chinese Development Bank, a financial institution that conducts some US$400 billion in annual loans, grants, and other programs, will invest US$100 million in Chile, where the national mining company, Codelco, will soon open another copper mine just to meet Chinese demand.

Over the past four years, we have watched the president of Iran receive a warm welcome in Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Ecuador, when the US president was all but forced off stage at the Summit of the Americas in Argentina and embarrassed by a negative public reception in Guatemala at the tail end of his obligatory Latin American tour in 2007.

The US State Department declared in January 2008 that this would be the year of engagement. So far, there has been little more than a cursory glance at Latin America, with most of the attention coming recently when Bolivia, then Venezuela, sent the US ambassador packing.

The International Monetary Fund has been lambasted as a bunch of Washington cronies. The State Department's Human Rights report and yearly review of cooperation in the so-called War on Drugs is significantly watered down in an environment where the region’s new patron states don’t place a high value on protecting human rights or preventing drugs from entering the United States.

Any influence the United States may still retain over the region has all but eroded. And since Thomas Shannon, the State Department’s top diplomat in Latin America, visited China in 2004, it has been all but formally acknowledged that China has a “seat at the table” when any Latin America enters serious discussions over trade, military support, or foreign direct investment.

Looking ahead, President Bush will hand his successor two ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the so-called wars on terrorism and drugs. By many accounts, the new president will inherit four “wars”. Three of the four wars are over an ocean and half a world away. And the war that potentially has the most impact on Americans' daily lives has received the least amount of attention and funding.

What may affect Americans the most in the coming presidential term and beyond is likely not the threat of nuclear war or a terrorist attack but losing the support and respect of a region that since 1823, when the Monroe Doctrine was first signed, has been for better and for worse, the sole purview of the United States.

In the last eight years, Washington’s backyard has become littered with a number of interests that range from hostile to indifferent towards the United States. For many Latin American nations, the upshot is choice, an option to trade with other countries aside from the US and the EU. They are new patrons who don’t care about human rights standards. They do not force Latin governments to give their soldiers immunity from prosecution at the International Criminal Court

Moving forward, many countries in Latin America, specifically Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico, may see winning combinations and synergies emerge from budding relationships with at least China and Russia. Iran is a distant, yet significant regional player.

The big loser will be the United States. US diplomatic pressure and geopolitical voice will increasingly fall on deaf ears. A region that was once very close has perhaps forever stepped away. It is unlikely future leaders in the White House will repair broken relations or revive one of the region’s oldest unspoken laws.

One Brazilian diplomat recently told Southern Pulse, “In the past, the door for talks with the United States on any issue had to remain open. We had no choice. Now we can close it if we want. And in the future, it may rarely, if ever, open again if China and Russia have their way.”
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