When Chinese-Latin American bilateral relations are covered in the media, there is a tendency to refer to actors in a relationship using vague and ambiguous language. For example, discussions about Chinese-Latin American relations often refer to China as a monolithic entity, with very little differentiation of the specific Chinese people, organizations, or government agency involved.
The book, Beyond Raw Materials: Who are the Actors in the Latin America and Caribbean-China Relationship, aims to disaggregate the players in the Chinese-Latin American relationship. (Click here to download or read the full PDF of this book.) In an interview with the coordinator of the book, Dr. Ariel Armony, the director of the University Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, he stated that “We take the concept of actors in a broad sense looking at both formal and informal institutions including the private sector, immigrants, netizens (participants in online forums), banks, etc. as well as actors in specific relationships such as between China and Brazil or China and Argentina. Many publications with important exceptions usually say ‘China, Chinese government, or Chinese companies,’ so there is little disaggregation.”
Through a collection of academic essays, organized in two sections: general framework and case studies, Beyond Raw Materials, breaks down these actors into discernable categories. In particular, the section of the book titled, “Key Actors in China’s Engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean: Government, Enterprises, and Quasi-Governmental Organizations,” written by Zhimin Yang, explains the main Chinese actors in the economic relationship between China and the region.
Yang demonstrates that there are three main categories of players on the Chinese side of the relationship: the Chinese government, quasi-governmental organizations, and enterprises. First, the Chinese government works from the top down to support bilateral economic relations. In the past decade, the government has established clear policy initiatives with a policy plan created in 2008, then refined the goals and increased investment in Latin America. In 2014, the China-CELAC forum was created as a tool to further relations.
While the Chinese government takes a top down approach to relations, enterprises work from the bottom up. These Chinese firms, “give feedback to policy-makers, draw lessons, and explore the market.” Finally, quasi-governmental organizations such as the China Development Bank and the Export and Import Bank of China play an important role in bilateral relations. They function as a connector between the government and the businesses, providing “direction and feedback” to both groups of actors.
China has become an increasingly important presence in Latin America, especially economically. It is important to recognize the different actors in the Chinese-Latin American relationship, in particular the relationship that the Chinese government, quasi-governmental organizations, and enterprises have in Latin American bilateral relations.
Peters, Enrique Dussel, and Ariel C. Armony. Beyond Raw Materials: Who Are the Actors in the Latin America and Caribbean-China Relationship? N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.