The Great (Belt and Road) Wall in Washington’s Backyard

News Analysis In a time when the United States is giving an inordinate amount of attention to deterring Russia in Eastern Ukraine, China continues to firm up its position in America’s own backyard. Argentina officially became the 141st country to join the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as “One Belt, One Road”) infrastructure investment project on Feb. 6. Argentine President Alberto Fernández met with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, after the former attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. According to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two countries within the framework of the BRI. The stated goals are to promote construction of the BRI in Argentina and facilitate closer cooperation across a host of economic sectors and technology exchange programs. The deal represents funds in excess of over $23 billion that will be utilized to tie the two countries closer together. Additional documents regarding the digital economy and aerospace were also signed. Fernández, a left-wing Peronist, purportedly got along very well with CCP leader Xi during their meeting. Based on the ideas of Argentinian leader Juan Peron, peronism is a traditionally pro-labor movement that supports income redistribution and industrialization. There was a subsequent natural affinity between Fernández and the Marxist Xi. After telling Xi that had he been an Argentinian citizen, he “would be a Peronist,” Fernández closed the conversation with a warm-hearted salutation to Xi and the CCP: “Without the CCP, there’d be no New China.” That is true. Fernández, however, omitted a key piece of information assumed in that statement: “… there’d be no New China, and no millions of state-liquidated bodies upon which that New China was built.” The two reportedly talked for over an hour, whereas other official leaders visiting Beijing got a cursory meeting with Xi and were limited to exchanging standard pleasantries. Still, the ideological affinity between the two leftists is more or less irrelevant to any considerations regarding the national interests of the United States. However, what is more pressing for Washington is the geopolitical reality of having steadily increasing Chinese influence in its own backyard. Besides economics, it is important to note the introduction of additional agreements with Argentina that deepen China’s digital footprint in the area as well, such as technology sharing deals and the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System. A Long March-3B carrier rocket carrying the 24th and 25th Beidou navigation satellites takes off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, China, on Nov. 5, 2017. (Wang Yulei/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images) The 141-country strong BRI, besides flooding the prospective country with Chinese financial resources, also brings additional economic perks that ensure governments are more firmly under Beijing’s thumb. Fernández already began lobbying Xi to fight for Argentine inclusion into the emerging economy coalition BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). Xi additionally reported that he “will instruct his banks to make progress” on swaps and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) for Argentina. According to the IMF website, the SDR is an international reserve asset created to supplement the official reserves of member countries. The SDR is composed of the U.S. dollar, euro, Chinese yuan, Japanese yen, and the British pound. Nobody gets something for nothing in international relations; it would be contrary to reason to believe that such favors from Beijing are interpreted to be one-way concessions that don’t need to be reciprocated. There is a bit of irony in the outsized U.S. attention to Russian troop movements on its own territory and in Belarus, its next-door neighbor and close ally. Any unprovoked incursion into Ukraine by Russia must undoubtedly be met with international condemnation. But that ignores the reckless NATO expansion since the end of the Cold War that has brought the alliance’s border closer and closer to the Russian Federation. Additionally, deepening U.S. military coordination with Kyiv has done little to defuse the situation in Ukraine—quite the opposite, as it has forced Russian President Vladimir Putin to double down on his defense posture in the region both in order to retain international prestige as well as defend perceived national security priorities. Meanwhile, China steadily increases its ties to countries in the United States’ direct vicinity. This is a much more threatening geographic reality for Washington, and Beijing is a much more dangerous rising threat than is Moscow. On top of ignoring its own pressing national interests and their potential security implications in its own backyard, engaging in continued saber rattling with Russia further pus

The Great (Belt and Road) Wall in Washington’s Backyard

News Analysis

In a time when the United States is giving an inordinate amount of attention to deterring Russia in Eastern Ukraine, China continues to firm up its position in America’s own backyard.

Argentina officially became the 141st country to join the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as “One Belt, One Road”) infrastructure investment project on Feb. 6. Argentine President Alberto Fernández met with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, after the former attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

According to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the two countries within the framework of the BRI. The stated goals are to promote construction of the BRI in Argentina and facilitate closer cooperation across a host of economic sectors and technology exchange programs.

The deal represents funds in excess of over $23 billion that will be utilized to tie the two countries closer together. Additional documents regarding the digital economy and aerospace were also signed.

Fernández, a left-wing Peronist, purportedly got along very well with CCP leader Xi during their meeting. Based on the ideas of Argentinian leader Juan Peron, peronism is a traditionally pro-labor movement that supports income redistribution and industrialization. There was a subsequent natural affinity between Fernández and the Marxist Xi. After telling Xi that had he been an Argentinian citizen, he “would be a Peronist,” Fernández closed the conversation with a warm-hearted salutation to Xi and the CCP: “Without the CCP, there’d be no New China.”

That is true. Fernández, however, omitted a key piece of information assumed in that statement: “… there’d be no New China, and no millions of state-liquidated bodies upon which that New China was built.”

The two reportedly talked for over an hour, whereas other official leaders visiting Beijing got a cursory meeting with Xi and were limited to exchanging standard pleasantries. Still, the ideological affinity between the two leftists is more or less irrelevant to any considerations regarding the national interests of the United States. However, what is more pressing for Washington is the geopolitical reality of having steadily increasing Chinese influence in its own backyard.

Besides economics, it is important to note the introduction of additional agreements with Argentina that deepen China’s digital footprint in the area as well, such as technology sharing deals and the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System.

Epoch Times Photo
A Long March-3B carrier rocket carrying the 24th and 25th Beidou navigation satellites takes off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, China, on Nov. 5, 2017. (Wang Yulei/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)

The 141-country strong BRI, besides flooding the prospective country with Chinese financial resources, also brings additional economic perks that ensure governments are more firmly under Beijing’s thumb. Fernández already began lobbying Xi to fight for Argentine inclusion into the emerging economy coalition BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

Xi additionally reported that he “will instruct his banks to make progress” on swaps and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) for Argentina. According to the IMF website, the SDR is an international reserve asset created to supplement the official reserves of member countries. The SDR is composed of the U.S. dollar, euro, Chinese yuan, Japanese yen, and the British pound. Nobody gets something for nothing in international relations; it would be contrary to reason to believe that such favors from Beijing are interpreted to be one-way concessions that don’t need to be reciprocated.

There is a bit of irony in the outsized U.S. attention to Russian troop movements on its own territory and in Belarus, its next-door neighbor and close ally. Any unprovoked incursion into Ukraine by Russia must undoubtedly be met with international condemnation. But that ignores the reckless NATO expansion since the end of the Cold War that has brought the alliance’s border closer and closer to the Russian Federation. Additionally, deepening U.S. military coordination with Kyiv has done little to defuse the situation in Ukraine—quite the opposite, as it has forced Russian President Vladimir Putin to double down on his defense posture in the region both in order to retain international prestige as well as defend perceived national security priorities.

Meanwhile, China steadily increases its ties to countries in the United States’ direct vicinity. This is a much more threatening geographic reality for Washington, and Beijing is a much more dangerous rising threat than is Moscow. On top of ignoring its own pressing national interests and their potential security implications in its own backyard, engaging in continued saber rattling with Russia further pushes the Kremlin toward the CCP.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese-chartered merchant ship Cosco Shipping Panama crosses the new Agua Clara Locks during the inauguration of the expansion of the Panama Canal in this undated file photo. China is continuing its push to displace U.S. influence in the region, and already has put parts of the Panama Canal under its control. (Rodrigo Arangua/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States should be seeking to strengthen its outreach to its allies; more than this, it should also be seeking to increase its economic involvement with developing countries, especially in Latin America—because China is.

According to Global Times, an outlet under control of the CCP flagship paper People’s Daily, the goal for Beijing is not to stop with Argentina. According to Zhou Zhiwei, an expert on Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, “Countries like Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia that have not yet signed a Belt and Road Memorandum of Understanding may consider accelerating their pace in taking the opportunity [after seeing Argentina’s position].”

This type of statement reaffirms the reality that Washington should be seeking a modernized Monroe Doctrine to protect its own security and economic interests in the region. Originally signed in 1823, this foreign policy stance relayed the position that the United States opposes European colonialism in the Western Hemisphere.

Today, the United States has often fallen short of engaging with its Latin American neighbors in a manner that is mutually beneficial to both. Additionally, countries in the 21st century should be free to associate with international partners. A return to the Cold War approach of confrontation and subsequent exploitation in the region is not a strategy for the modern era. However, outmaneuvering China to provide real material benefit and better deals to countries in the region is not only economically advantageous, but is also essential to strengthening U.S. security in its geographical proximity.

The international priorities of the United States are largely out of focus with reality. Its actions counterintuitively increase the likelihood of military confrontation in Eastern Europe. Worse than this, keeping the image of a powerful and dangerous Russian international player on life-support deflects limited resources and attention that should be focused on the true rising threat: the CCP.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Dominick Sansone writes on international relations with a focus on comparative politics, U.S. foreign policy, and Russia-China relations. Previously a Fulbright recipient in Bulgaria, he has also lived in North Macedonia and Bologna, Italy. His writing has been published in the National Interest, RealClear Defense, and the American Conservative.