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So far, policymakers have maintained strong ties with both nations. In 2021, they may face a point of no return.
Argument: Latin American Governments Are Caught in the Middle of the U.S.-China Tech War Latin American Governments Are Caught in t...
For most policymakers in Latin America, the best way to react to growing geopolitical tensions between the United States and China is obvious: Stay neutral. Given Latin America’s geographic proximity to the United States, growing economic dependence on China, and historic aversion to long-standing alliances that limit strategic autonomy, leaders across the ideological spectrum have largely decided to embrace a pragmatic stance and maintain friendly ties with both Washington and Beijing.
With few exceptions, this strategy was largely seen to be a winning formula over the past years. Chile’s right-wing president, Sebastián Piñera, for example, sought to present himself as the region’s most trusted interlocutor for both former U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Mauricio Macri, Argentina’s center-right former president, and his center-left successor Alberto Fernández have likewise been keen to simultaneously maintain constructive ties with the United States and China. In Colombia, right-wing President Iván Duque preserved Bogotá’s historically close security cooperation with the United States but also made clear his administration had no plans to preemptively exclude Huawei as the country prepares to build its 5G network, a stance surely welcomed in Beijing.
Even Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who projected himself as Trump’s greatest ally over the past several years, tasked his vice president, Hamilton Mourão, with protecting Brazil’s ties to China. Along with most of Brazil’s foreign-policy establishment, Mourão has long been an advocate of neutrality as tensions between Washington and Beijing have intensified. So even as Bolsonaro made deals with Trump—including an agreement to facilitate trade and to consolidate the United States’ role as leading investor in the country, a space cooperation agreement allowing the United States to use a launch site in Brazil, and the designation of Brazil as a major non-NATO ally—the country’s economic dependence on China deepened considerably. China is now the destination of almost a third of Brazil’s exports, while only about 10 percent go to the United States, the second biggest buyer of Brazilian products.
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