Until quite recently, Chinese officials claimed that Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) were beyond the central geographic scope of both the continental Eurasian “belt” and the Asian and African maritime “road.” From 2017, however, an increasing number of countries in South and Central America, as well as in the Caribbean, have signed BRI-related memoranda of understanding and announced related business deals, signaling that the BRI has now extended to the Americas. Nevertheless, despite the hype and anxiety surrounding the BRI’s apparent extension to the region, it remains unclear whether its rollout there will change entrenched patterns, challenges and dysfunctions in the China–LAC relationship or merely deepen them. Moreover, at a time of growing U.S.-China strategic rivalry, the expansion of BRI-themed dealmaking in LAC is already playing into growing great power competition and tension.

This article is a publication of Strategic Comments at the International Institute of Strategic Studies and is available here.