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Has China overplayed its hand in Latin America’s Silk Road?

When opened later this year, Chancay Port will have the capacity to receive vessels of up to 18,000 TEUs – the largest shipping vessels in the world

Posted on April 3, 2024

For more than 1,500 years, China’s Silk Road connected trade routes through Europe and East Asia, extending across 6,437km (4,000 miles) of landscapes like the Gobi Desert and the Pamir Mountains to facilitate the exchange of goods and ideas between the East and West. 570 years later, Beijing has even more ambitious plans.

Launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has enticed more than 150 countries to sign up for Chinese investment in key infrastructure; from pipelines, power plants and telecoms networks, to airports, roads, railways and ports.

Some see the BRI, or so-called ‘New Silk Road’, as a harbinger of a new era of trade and growth for developing economies in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Sceptics say China is using the BRI to lay a debt trap for borrowing governments – and use its right to retain the right to demand repayment at any time for geopolitical leverage over issues such as Taiwan’s sovereignty or the treatment of Uyghurs.

Governments across Latin America are increasingly falling into the sceptic camp. Last Saturday (23 March), the Peruvian Government terminated the exclusive right of COSCO, the Chinese state-owned shipping company involved in numerous BRI deals, to operate the Chancay megaport COSCO is currently building.


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