To judge by the pomp and shuttle diplomacy, Latin America and China are best of friends. Witness the bonhomie in Punta del Este, where delegates from 33 nations in the Americas just rolled out the red carpet for authorities from Beijing and scores of corporate bigwigs at a business summit -- one of many parleys celebrating what Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez hailed as “the new normal China,” and his region’s chance to engage with a “champion of world trade and engine of global commerce.”
The Chinese understandably have a growing stake in the markets of South and Central America and the Caribbean, whether in locking up supplies of raw materials or bankrolling the roads, mines, sluiceways and ports required to fetch them. China is Latin America’s biggest lender and single investor, having made more than 70 loans worth around $140 billion to Central and South America and the Caribbean since 2009. What’s less clear is if the region itself is prepared to leverage the boom.