On May 11, 2018, we welcomed Professor Benjamin Creutzfeldt PhD to Tsinghua University to help us understand China’s involvement in Latin America. Dr. Creutzfeldt has extensive experience in Asia and Latin America, having spent years teaching in Colombia and Mexico, and as a China specialist for Christie’s. Now he is a Resident Postdoctoral Fellow for China-Latin America-US Affairs at the Foreign Policy Institute, Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies.
5月中旬，Benjamin Creutzfeldt教授来到清华为我们介绍中国在拉美的发展情况。 Creutzfeldt博士曾在哥伦比亚和墨西哥任教多年，拥有丰富的亚洲和拉丁美洲研究经验，他同时还担任佳士得的中国专家。现在，他是约翰霍普金斯SAIS外交政策研究所中国 - 拉美-美国事务驻校博士后研究员。
Professor Creutzfeldt began his presentation with background on Sino-Latino relations, acknowledging that there is a lack of experts in the field since it is more common for academics to focus on the US-China relationship. The region’s proximity to the US has influenced China’s rhetoric about the region. Professor Creutzfeldt presented excerpts of two speeches, one of former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the other of China’s current Vice President Wang Qishan. Tillerson argued that Latin America needed to be careful and wouldn’t like Chinese intervention in its affairs as a region, while Wang spoke about a peaceful partnership and alluded to the region’s proximity to its powerful northern neighbor.
Professor Creutzfeldt provided graphs depicting Chinese investment in Latin America. He pointed out that while investments are into the billions of USD in several countries, this money represents only a small portion of the countries’ capital flows from foreign investors. China invests primarily in the energy and agricultural sectors of the region as it is very resource rich, and China’s massive population necessitates the importation of foodstuffs and energy. What is tricky are the moral implications of the extraction industries.
Professor Creutzfeldt provided a case study about the China National Petroleum Corporation to emphasize potential hazards of the extraction industry in Latin America and how companies can avoid them. The company focused decision-making in Peru around indigenous tribe interest groups who strongly objected to the company’s oil drilling in certain portion of the Peruvian Amazon. He used the case study as an example of how China must expand its understanding of sustainable international investment to include local community and general public opinion, not just opinion at the government level. By incorporating this concept, Chinese companies can avoid some of the pitfalls of previous investors in Latin America.
One student voiced concern that China’s involvement in the region had seen some backlash from indigenous groups, and that many Latin American and Chinese people lack a basic understanding of each other’s cultures. Another student shared that in Colombia China had been very supportive financially which eventually pushed the US to increase its financial support as well, thus creating competition between the two powers for Colombia’s business. Professor Creutzfeldt used the two perspectives to explain that while Latin America is a region that shares a common language and colonial history, it is made up of 33 extremely diverse countries that do not view China in a united way.
Noting the different complications and issues surrounding China’s involvement in Latin America, he asked us what could improve the situation? Several students stressed that educating the public in China and Latin American countries was of the upmost importance to decrease xenophobic tendencies and allay tensions between Chinese companies and locals. Another student pointed out that perhaps China could join the Pacific Trade Alliance, although China historically is weary of alliances. While another voiced the role embassies and civil society needed to play in increasing communication between these two regions. Dr. Creutzfeldt finished his presentation by encouraging us to continue to think of ways cooperation between the two regions could be achieved and provided us with various sources to help deepen our understanding of Sino-Latino relations.