China’s economic and diplomatic presence in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has expanded dramatically since the turn of the century. Beyond unprecedented commercial and investment ties, including the extension of its Belt and Road Initiative to the region, China has sought to deploy “soft power” to advance its standing. Increasingly, China deploys concerted public relations and communication strategies to shape how it is perceived across LAC, its sub-regions and countries. However, little attention has been given to China’s proactive messaging, or to the impact of these efforts on elite and public perceptions of the emerging superpower across the region.
To better illuminate China’s efforts to shape perceptions of its growing role in LAC, CLALS has undertaken a research and public information initiative, together with researchers based in the region. With a focus on Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador, this project examines Chinese messaging in LAC, with respect to three topical domains of engagement: COVID-19 public health diplomacy, information and communications technology, and public diplomacy.
This study has generated a comprehensive literature review in English and Spanish, synthesizing the state of knowledge and debate regarding China’s engagement with LAC, and a report on a survey of regional opinion leaders’ changing perceptions of China and its role in the region. The project synthesized public opinion and other relevant data concerning these countries and domains of interest, including in Mandarin, to produce a comprehensive report in English and Spanish summarizing a state-of-the-art understanding of Chinese efforts of strategic communication in LAC. The results of this study were disseminated in a variety of modes, including maps, visual timelines, infographics, blogposts, webinars and podcasts, and promoted across a range of social media platforms.
This project was led by CLALS Director Eric Hershberg, joined by Rob Albro, CLALS Research Associate Professor; Luiza Duarte, CLALS Research Fellow; and two investigators based in Argentina, Andrés Serbin and Andrei Serbin Pont, President and Executive Director of the Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales (CRIES), respectively. This research was funded through a cooperative agreement between the Institute for War & Peace Reporting and the U.S. Department of State.
Complementing this initiative’s report, Communicating Influence: China’s Messaging in Latin America and the Caribbean, Center researchers and experts outside AU have prepared four country case studies of China’s engagement with Latin America. These include analyses of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador.
Latin America-China Relations: A Review of Recent Literature (2010-2020)
One outcome of this project is a state-of-the-art review of the previous decade's literature on the relationship between China and Latin America and the Caribbean. Written by Andrés Serbin, President of the Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales (CRIES), this survey compares the approaches taken by academic communities in China, Latin America, and the United States when analyzing Chinese-Latin American relations, in order to highlight the distinct scholarly paradigms and epistemic starting points used by each, and to differentiate emerging Latin American scholarly perspectives from those in the English-speaking world and in China.
We have also generated a set of almost two dozen infographics, which convey the results of data collected over the course of this project illuminating the ongoing evolution of China’s strategic communication with Latin America and the Caribbean. These infographics address a range of complementary topics which, taken together, provide both snapshots and timelines for key developments regarding China’s increasingly multifaceted messaging approach over the previous decade. They summarize information about such arenas as public diplomacy (including Covid-19 diplomacy), visits of high-ranking dignitaries, the promotion of Chinese culture, increasing use of social media, the advancement of Chinese information and communications technology as part of regional networks, and the several ways China now seeks to place favorable content in traditional print and other media throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
This video provides a project overview, situating the rise of China within the regional context of Latin America and the Caribbean. It explores the project's main areas of attention, including China's engagements with the region around COVID-19 public health diplomacy, information and communications technology, and public diplomacy, and summarizes important project takeaways.
Episode 1: Information and Communications Technology
Hosted by CLALS Director Eric Hershberg, this episode discusses the advancement of China's Digital Silk Road in Latin America and the Caribbean, characterized by growing media cooperation between China and countries in the region and expanding use of Chinese information and communication technology, including 5G services. Guests include Margaret Myers, Director of the Asia & Latin America Program at the Inter-American Dialogue; CLALS Research Fellow Luiza Duarte; and Patricio Giusto, Executive Director of the Sino-Argentinian Observatory.
Episode 2: COVID-19 Public Health Diplomacy
Hosted by CLALS Research Fellow Luiza Duarte, this episode considers the several dimensions of China's COVID-19 diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean, including the delivery of medical supplies and provision or sale of Chinese vaccines to the region, explores China's goals for this diplomacy, and its relative success in achieving them. Guests include Ambassador Jorge Heine, who served as Chile's ambassador to China (2014-2017); Francisco Urdinez, Associate Professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile; and CLALS Director Eric Hershberg.
Episode 3: Public Diplomacy and Confucius Institutes
Hosted by CLALS Research Fellow Luiza Duarte, this episode explores some of the key features of Chinese public diplomacy in Latin America and the Caribbean, giving particularly attention to the role played by China's Confucius Institutes as elements in the projection of China's growing soft power in the region. Guests include Monica DeHart, Professor, University of Puget Sound; Claudia Trevisan, Executive Director, Brazil-China Business Council; and CLALS Research Associate Professor Robert Albro.
China's Relations with Latin America
February 3, 2022 | Event Recording
The Center, the Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales (CRIES), and the Fundación Foro del Sur co-hosted a webinar to discuss the evolving relationship between China and Latin America and the Caribbean. Among other topics, panelists presented and discussed a state-of-the-art review of academic literature about this relationship, and the main findings of a recent survey of opinion leaders in 23 countries across the region on their perception of China and its role in Latin America. Panelists included: Andrés Serbin, CRIES President; Luiza Duarte, CLALS Research Fellow; Gino Pauselli, University of Pennsylvania; Cynthia Sanborn, Woodrow Wilson Center and Universidad del Pacífico; Marlise Ilhesca Jozami, Foro del Sur; and Eric Hershberg, CLALS Director.
Comunicando la influencia:
Narrativas sobre el papel de China en El Salvador, América Latina y El Caribe
February 22, 2022 | Event Recording
CLALS and its co-host, the Centro de Investigación para la Democracia (CIDEMO) at the Universidad de Oriente (UNIVO) led a discussion of China's economic partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean, which has been accompanied by an expansion of cultural and diplomatic ties with the region. With attention to El Salvador, the webinar "Comunicando la influencia: Narrativas sobre el papel de China en El Salvador, América Latina y el Caribe" presented the transformations in Chinese external communication practices in the last decade through the use of media and social networks in the region. Panelists included: CIDEMO Director Rodolfo Mejía, CIDEMO Investigator Angélica Sosa, CLALS Director Eric Hershberg, and CLALS Research Fellow Luiza Duarte.
Diplomacia pública chinesa no Brasil
February 25, 2022 | Event Recording
The Center and its co-host the Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) held a discussion on China's economic partnership with Latin America, which has been accompanied by an expansion of cultural and diplomatic ties with the region. The webinar "Diplomacia pública chinesa no Brasil" presented the transformations in Chinese external communication practices in the last decade through the use of media and social networks. Speakers included: CLALS Research Fellow Luiza Duarte, School of International Service Professor and Brazil Research Initiative Director at American University Matthew Taylor, and International Relations Professor at Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) Maurício Santoro.
Estrategias de mensajería china en América Latina y el Caribe: El caso de Chile
February 28, 2022 | Event Recording
China’s economic presence in Chile has grown exponentially in recent years, with growing volumes of investment recently supplementing dramatic increases in bilateral trade. This trend coincides with Beijing’s projection of influence through instruments of soft power, including public diplomacy and an active presence in both legacy and digital media. This webinar reviews these themes in light of a CLALS project analyzing China’s messaging strategies throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, with a particular interest in the case of Chile. Speakers included: CLALS Research Fellow Luiza Duarte, Instituto de Estudios Internacionales (IEI) Universidad de Chile Investigator Carlos Portales, Coordinadora Regional de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales (CRIES) President Andrés Serbin, and CLALS Associate Professor Robert Albro.