The devastating environmental impact of Chinese influence in Latin America


As noted by German international media DW, until just a few years ago Chinese companies were relatively unknown in Latin America, but their direct investments in the region average around $10 billion. per year since 2010, which has a significant detrimental effect on the environment, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

Mónica Núñez Salas, assistant professor of environmental law at the University of the Pacific in Lima, Peru, recently authored a report for Florida International University (FIU), titled China’s Investments and Land Use in Latin America, in which she warns that the region has maintained its role as a supplier of natural resources to China “at a high cost to its ecology and local communities. The increased demand for raw materials affects natural resources and local populations, at a time when climate change makes sustainability practices more urgent.

Agriculture, mining and drilling

In an interview with DW, Rebecca Ray, one of the authors of the report China in Latin America: Lessons for South-South Cooperation and Sustainable Development, says that “Over the past 10 years, China has tripled its importance as a destination for Latin countries. US exports – rising from 3% to 9% of the total. But these exports are not like other exports: almost 90% of Latin American exports to China come from agriculture, mining or drilling, compared to about half of Latin American exports to the rest. of the world.

Ray further explains that “in environmental terms, this means that, on average, Latin American exports to China have a much heavier environmental footprint than their other exports: they use twice as much water and produce 12% more greenhouse gases.

Chinese mining and infrastructure projects also create lasting damage to the environment. Chinese banks support projects rejected by multilateral institutions because of their environmental and social risks, such as the Coca-Codo Sinclair dam in Ecuador, or in countries with credit problems, such as Venezuela, the American think tank on foreign policy and international relations Council on Foreign Relations reported.

While China’s demand for raw materials has boosted regional economic growth, it has also encouraged its trading partners’ overreliance on natural resource extraction at the expense of higher value-added activities. Many countries voluntarily compromise their own environmental, social and governance regulations to attract Chinese investment.

“Due to weak institutions in the region, China’s growing influence may also facilitate corruption and increase risks to countries’ resource security and national interests,” the China Review Commission warned. U.S.-China Economy and Security in its 2021 Annual Report to the U.S. Congress.


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