Amid the economic and public health challenges of COVID-19, Beijing has steadily deepened its engagement with the region
FREMONT, CA: The China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Forum Joint Action Plan was an excellent opportunity to commence China’s relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean in 2022. China and CELAC members updated their roadmap for cooperation in many areas, as they had done at previous ministerial-level conferences in 2015 and 2018. This strategy, like China's Latin America policy white papers from 2008 and 2016, as well as President Xi Jinping's 1+3+6 plan announced in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2014, underlines China's goals in the region, even if the intentions behind it are murky and implementation inconsistent.
China's intentions to expand its engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean across a broad range of economic sectors are reaffirmed in the new plan, with a focus on infrastructure construction in multiple domains. This was further used in association with China-provided financing vehicles and deepened China's presence in a number of strategic technology sectors. A significant number of current and/or proposed China-CELAC forums (22 in all) to further specific initiatives are critical to advancing this collaboration.
Beijing regards CELAC as a crucial vehicle for international interaction with the hemisphere, and it clearly supports CELAC's strengthening as an entity. As members of the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Canada have a seat at the table in the Organization of American States (OAS), the region's traditional framework for international participation. China reportedly promised to "support the Forum on Latin American and East Asian Cooperation's parallel advancement and mutual promotion," though it's unclear.
China also claimed that it would provide critical support to strategic projects with a special emphasis on Caribbean Small Island Developing States. Because of its proximity to the United States, China considers the Caribbean subregion to be strategically vital. Furthermore, Beijing wants to keep flipping the eight Western Hemisphere countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, five of them are Caribbean countries (Haiti, Belize, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines). The region is also a powerful voting bloc at the United Nations and the Organization of American States, which might influence China.