China and Latin America: A Booming Relationship

May 27, 2008

China and Latin America: A Booming Relationship

It will probably surprise a lot of people to learn that China has been big in Latin America since the 17th century. A Spanish cleric remarked in 1669 that one ‘cannot think of an exquisite article in a house which does not come from China’. Along with the goods came many Chinese and they wasted no time in settling down and opening businesses. At the same time as the priest was admiring Chinese jade, barbers in Mexico City were petitioning the government to move Chinese barbers to the outskirts of the city because they posed a threat to their livelihoods. The locals simply could not compete with the hard working Chinese. Under the militant Mao Zedong, Beijing’s strategy in Latin America had changed radically and for several decades Beijing’s goal was to overthrow existing...