I recently had the honor of writing the first in a new Wilson Center series on “medical diplomacy” in Latin America, the region hardest hit by COVID-19. In this article I I examine the geopolitical implications of China’s robust pandemic response.
The article outlines Beijing’s timely, strategic, and significant contributions to Latin America’s COVID-19 response, beginning almost immediately after the virus reached the region. China’s support has included medical supply donations, the speedy sale of masks, ventilators, and ambulances, and a promised $1 billion donation for coronavirus vaccines. This Chinese effort has vastly outstripped U.S. support. However, the article also points out that the geopolitical consequences are uncertain. Ideological divisions in Latin America and intensifying superpower rivalries complicate this region’s dealings with China. Moreover, Latin America’s economic relationship with China remains concentrated in the export of natural resources and commercial agricultural products, limiting its contributions to Latin America’s economic diversification and development.
Additional reports in this series will look at the U.S. and Taiwanese pandemic responses in Latin America, and the potential impacts of China’s economic slowdown on its engagement in Latin America.