The early 2000s witnessed a period of close cooperation between China and many South American governments. But in the late 2010s, right-wing populists gained power and stoked anti-China sentiments. In this context, COVID-19's emergence in China and the shift of its epicenter to South America generated an international relations crisis for the state. Using digital living archives, this chapter analyzes China's state and social media narratives about South America during the pandemic, revealing how China's new "wolf warrior" culture among diplomats and diasporic social media users transformed the crisis into an engine of nationalist fervor domestically and instrument of diplomacy abroad. Focusing on Brazil and Ecuador, this study traces the evacuation of South Americans from Wuhan, the advancement of COVID-19 in South America, political relations between South American countries with China and the US, and the role of Chinese philanthropy to and from South America.
China's intervention in Ecuador has resulted in a proliferation of sacrifice zones, aggravating the structural conditions for socioenvironmental disasters that have occurred in 2020. This article explores the colonial imagination that gave rise to the colossal investment in hydroelectric infrastructure during the "Citizens' Revolution." This study maps the implementation of development projects whose motivating ideologues and exemplars were all men whose vision of progress relegated social and environmental concerns, thereby creating situations that were prone to catastrophes. The article also seeks to complexify the conception of hydroelectric infrastructure within the theoretical framework of masculinity studies, development studies, and science and technology studies, to better understand the structural conditions that give rise to disasters. Accordingly, we implement an interdisciplinary interpretation of legal frameworks and planning documents focusing on the infrastructure of the national energy matrix.
In the contemporary moment as Latin America is facing a series of practical challenges, it is urgent for the region to reverse cycles of crisis including political instability, economic recession, and social turbulence. In the political field, ideological polarization, social uprisings, and global superpower relations are shifting rapidly. Since the 2010s, the United States has strengthened its diplomacy with Latin America, but mainly through sanctioning moves. US policies focus first on exerting pressure on the left-wing regimes of Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, squeezing their diplomatic space in the region, and second on excluding the influence of emerging powers, mainly China and Russia, in Latin America branding them as "new imperialist powers." The US specifically demands that Latin American countries reject China's "Belt and Road" or "Silk Road" initiative. Nevertheless, as the twenty-first century advances, China–Latin America cooperation is intensifying rapidly and is conducive to Latin America's prosperity.
Using a historical-structural method, this chapter analyzes the recent political-economic, historic, and social context of China-Ecuador relations during two periods. The first is the "reformism era" of the Rafael Correa administration (2006–2017) of protodevelopmentalist projects, which presumed intensifying state involvement in the direct administration of social (and productive) forces and in distancing the nation from dependence upon global hegemons. The second is the "postreformism era" of the Lenín Moreno administration (2017–2021), which was more outward looking, oriented toward a situation of minimal governmental intermediation, and less concerned with eliminating US influence. Historically, Ecuador has developed along a path of "spasmodic modernization," prioritizing projects of a more outward-looking nature, with brief periods in which the state implements developmentalist policies. It was this kind of developmentalist period that characterized the reformism that emerged in 2006 and marked the beginnings of Ecuador's stronger relationship with China.
In the last two decades, China has become one of Brazil's most important commercial partners. In fact, in the last ten years, this relation has far surpassed the trading field and entered a new phase of direct investments and conjoint projects in the fields of agriculture and energy production. The fields of China studies and Asian studies are consequently emerging in many universities in Brazil. This chapter offers an intellectual history of the launch of the first academic journal dedicated to China studies and Asian studies in Brazil. The experience of editing and organizing this journal, initially named Leste Vermelho (Red East), reveals many aspects of how Asian studies are developing in Brazil, what are its most challenging obstacles, and the surprising potential for international collaboration.
This chapter maps debates generated by direct foreign investment and development finance coming to Ecuador from China. We discuss recent events concerning Ecuador's receipt of credit and advance royalties from China's mining activities and examine changes in the present Ecuadorian government's approach to foreign relations in view of the fact that, under the prior presidential administration, Ecuador belonged to a group of left-leaning Latin American countries. The chapter also presents data on China's economic activity in Ecuador and divergent views on the political and economic interests and benefits that have grown out of this relationship. The chapter then proposes that China, in implementing its "Stepping Out" international development strategy, imposes its geo-economic interests under what we identify here as "a win-win principle" of mutual benefit to both Ecuador and China. And yet China does not fully appreciate the different perspectives and political tendencies of the Ecuadorian government.
For heads of state or corporate executives, the Amazon rainforest and its rivers may be an abstract and incorporeal area or matrix of resources to extract. But for the Indigenous nations of these regions, their own lives, worlding practices, and forms of knowledge are threatened by the implementation of megaprojects. The Munduruku have seen several threats to the region they have occupied for at least four centuries: hydroelectric plants, waterways, ports, roads, and railroads. These infrastructures put the Tapajós and Teles Pires rivers (and all those who depend on them) at risk. In this essay, a Munduruku Indigenous leader and activist offers an alternative epistemological lens for apprehending the forms of risk, building, and destruction, reflecting on the specific damages caused by China Three Gorges Corporation investment projects on places and objects considered sacred by the Munduruku people.
This chapter provides an account of the colonization process suffered by the Shuar population of Ecuador's Amazon region, from their first contacts with missionaries in the late nineteenth century to the mining-related exploitation of 2020. It is also a reflection on the ways in which this Indigenous population has had to face modernization processes through the presence of various actors in the last one hundred years, including the Catholic Church and the state, and, in the most recent decade, mining companies. The article places special emphasis on the Shuar's relationship with the developmentalist government of former president Rafael Correa and how this relationship eventually ruptured not only with the Shuar but with the Indigenous sector generally. The study also discusses conflicts created within the same Indigenous populations and organizations in the wake of the expansion of large-scale mining activities in the Zamora Chinchipe province.
After giving an account of the national strike of October 2019, this chapter deploys the analytic of structural racism to analyze the Rafael Correa administration's "Citizens' Revolution" discourse in Ecuador and its contradictory political narrative of development and inclusion, as well as the more neoliberal policies of the subsequent Moreno administration. The failures of both administrations have revealed a social bankruptcy that has led to minority uprisings like the Indigenous protests of October 2019. While the elimination of gasoline subsidies triggered national strikes at this time, the protests brought to light a years-long program of silencing and criminalizing the Indigenous movement. This situation has become more evident with the COVID-19 pandemic as, once again, minority groups had to seek new ways of dealing with their problems through their own means.
This chapter maps debates that have dominated the conversations connecting Chinese activists and Brazilian activists around gender and sexuality in international forums (BRICS, UN panels, NGO networks) since the Beijing Conference of 1995. Have Chinese and Brazilian gender/sexuality policy regimes been altered since the 1990s? Are there convergences and divergences between the trends at work in each country? How do gender/sexuality NGOs in China and Brazil dialogue with each other? This chapter analyzes bilateral gender/sexuality political and policy dialogues that have animated the geopolitical sexualized imaginaries, as well as the systemic patriarchy and sexualized racism that structures power in both countries and in the transcontinental relationship. This study frames on-going global debates regarding women's and LGBTQI+ rights against the wider backdrop of the transformations that have recently taken place in both China and Brazil, pointing toward future paths along which they might evolve.
Brazilian agroindustrial trade with China has mushroomed since the 2000s and soon reached bottlenecks in the main export channels through southeastern Brazil. Consequently, Chinese (and Chinese-backed) companies initiated new infrastructure investments to facilitate exports through new channels in the Amazon basin. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork and theoretical frameworks of global political ecology, this chapter examines the ports of Barcarena and Miritituba (Pará state). Despite having Chinese capital and markets as drivers of these infrastructure investments, their characterization as "Chinese" is obfuscated by the manner that capital and corporate control are refracted through various Brazilian public and private actors. This refraction enables Chinese firms to circumvent environmental regulations and local resistance, as port construction in the Amazon deepens socioeconomic, environmental, and ethnic conflicts in the region while promoting continuities in Chinese investment strategies, despite the Brazilian federal government's shift in the 2018–2021 period to a virulent anti-China stance.
The chapter analyzes the dynamics of transnational mobilization and partnerships between Chinese and international civil society organizations based in China, and Brazilian organizations within the framework of China's internationalization (Going Out policy). The chapter provides an overview of the areas and themes in which Chinese civil society has been mobilized, seeking to influence the state and Chinese companies by investing and acting abroad, arguing that this activism took place mainly on environmental issues. Then, the chapter makes a critical analysis of the joint activism of Chinese and Brazilian organizations within the framework of the BRICS New Development Bank, highlighting the achievements and challenges encountered by these groups in their dialogue with the states and the bank since 2014.
In the 1990s, the arrival of a group of foreign technicians to the rural Indigenous community of Río Blanco (in the highlands of Ecuador's Cuenca canton) marked the beginning of a convulsive period in which transnational entities have exploited the gold found the community's territories, profoundly affecting its interests, aspirations, and way of living. Thus began the Río Blanco mining project, which in 2013 was sold to a pair of Chinese companies: Junefield Mineral Resources Holdings and Hunan Gold Group. This chapter discusses the organization of the Río Blanco community's resistance to large-scale mining projects within the framework of two important events: the arrival of Chinese companies to the territory and the community's decision to work jointly with other urban and rural social collectives mobilizing under the mantle of Water Protection, which has resulted in the suspension of mining activities since 2018 through a constitutional legal action.
The chapter tracks data on Chinese investments in Latin America and provides a close reading of international treaties and conflicts generated around these investments. This study focuses on China's investment protection agreements in Latin America and highlights the connections to patterns of socioenvironmental and labor conflict. The work zeroes in on the agribusiness sector and seeks to evaluate two readings about China–South America relations: the optimistic neodevelopmentalist optic and the critical neodependency angle, highlighting processes of crony protectionism and labor precarization that tend to drop into the gap that opened up between these two dominant readings, and the polarized political perspective each represents.
This chapter aims to take two events—the catastrophic collapse of the riverbed downstream from a hydroelectric dam project and a mobilization by mining engineers critiquing the Mirador project—as a starting point for a reflection on the impact of large-scale Chinese investments in Ecuadors resource sector. What role have Chinese operators played in the politics of (environmental) knowledge around these projects? How did they respond to critique, and what measures did they take? What role did government officials play in approving these projects? In answering these questions, this study addresses promises of "knowledge transfer" that permeated discourses about the multiple benefits brought by Chinese builders. Has there been any "knowledge transfer," and if so, what role might this play in the future of the Ecuadorian resource sector? Finally, this chapter identifies the fundamental question of responsibility and how this is taken up by Chinese companies.
The Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador of 2008, in Article 14, "recognizes the right of the population to life in a healthy and ecologically stable environment that guarantees sustainability and well-being, sumac kawsay." Sumak kawsay, a Quechua phrase that can be translated as "life in fullness," was adopted as a theme by Indigenous movements in Bolivia and Ecuador in the 1990s and eventually entered Ecuador's mainstream political discourse as novel framework for political, cultural, and social development guaranteeing the full autonomy of Indigenous communities and their rights in connection with ancestral territories. Reality, however, presents a different panorama, as commercial and political interests are placed over constitutional principles. This chapter analyzes the impact of the Rafael Correa administration's extractivist policies on the human and constitutional rights of Indigenous communities and nationalities in exploited territories, emphasizing the rights to prior, free, and informed consultation and to community property.
This chapter analyzes the socioenvironmental impacts of the construction of the logistical corridor in the Tapajós River Basin and verifies the extent to which the China Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation (COFCO) is involved in these processes. This study focuses on the agribusiness industry's expansion of land acquisition in the Mapitoba region (the states of Maranhão, Piauí, Tocantins, and Bahia), and the search for alternative routes for the flow of agribusiness in the center-west of Brazil. The dependent variable for the socioenvironmental impacts is the construction of a logistic flow corridor for the export of agricultural production through the Tapajós River Basin, which can generate irreversible social and environmental impacts for the region's ecosystem. Finally, this study analyzes the socioenvironmental impacts of COFCO as an export grain producer in Brazilian territory through the acquisition of companies and land and as a probable investor in the Tapajós logistics corridor.
Chinese companies have been expanding their presence in Maranhão, northeast region of Brazil, to establish new fronts for soybean and iron ore exploration and export through their own logistical infrastructure, with the aim of reducing costs, increasing profits, and establishing their own logistical parameters. An example of this strategy is Porto São Luís, a private enterprise in the process of being installed in the capital city of São Luís by the Brazilian TUP Porto São Luís, part of the WTorre group, which has the Chinese transnational infrastructure company CCCC as its partner. Deforestation, enclosures of community areas, curtailment of the freedom to come and go of residents, threats by armed militias, and reintegration of violent possession, with police force, are some of the episodes already recorded regarding the implementation of the port and captained by the interests of the Chinese transnational CCCC.
The Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric plant (CCS), an infrastructure project that was emblematic of former president Rafael Correa's administration, was financed by the Chinese government and constructed by Sinohydro, a Chinese state-owned hydropower company. The project, which commenced in 2016, was designed and built despite serious questions from private, environmental, and human rights organizations. Nevertheless, after a sinkhole caused the nearby San Rafael waterfall to disappear on February 3, 2020, a series of events have brought questions about the project back into the public arena. Through the lens of political ecology, this study offers an inquiry and analysis of scientist and journalist responses in the wake of the waterfall's implosion. The chapter explores the communicational dimension, particularly the role of social media, as it brings the CCS back into the public discourse and impacts the responses of governmental institutions.
Chinese State Grid is considered the largest energy company in the world. Since 2005 it has expanded its operations in Brazil through State Grid Brazil Holding (SGBH). In the first half of 2019, this company constructed the second section of the transmission line linked to the Belo Monte Hydroelectric dam and power plant, called Xingu-Rio. This section passes through 81 municipalities in 5 different Brazilian states, crossing the Amazon, Cerrado, and Atlantic Forest biomes. Given this context, the objective of this chapter is to develop an analysis of the performance of SGBH in the Xingu-Rio transmission line with a mapping of socioeconomic, environmental, and technological issues. This study analyzes journalistic material, government documents, company and NGO reports, and interviews. The findings presented indicate that the Chinese presence intensified in order to support the investments of the Brazilian government, particularly during the presidential administration of Dilma Rousseff, and since.
This chapter addresses the multiple ways strategic projects of Chinese investment in Ecuador like the Coca Codo Sinclair dam (CCS) alter the socioeconomic dynamics of local populations. We look at the evolution of the project, its implications and effects on the social fabric, and the economic impact in the affected areas, and examine the expectations that were raised in the early construction phases of the project. We track the causes of disappointment and unfulfilled promises of development. We argue that behind those failed expectations are political agendas with their own objectives and rationale. While the welfare of the people is key in the government agenda discourses, local populations got caught between those discourses and the reality of the effects of projects like the CCS. This study reflects on the multiple ways in which the mestizo and Indigenous Amazonian peoples continue to be invisible in the country's social and political imaginaries.
This chapter discusses the pragmatism of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro's government toward China, using the Ferrogão Railway construction as an example. In the last quarter of his first year in office, in October 2019, Bolsonaro visited China. Upon arriving in Beijing, he commented that this was a "capitalist country." This strange statement represented a profound change of tone in relation to China over the previous year's presidential campaign. The shift in treatment of the Chinese was informed by very pragmatic considerations. China is Brazil's largest trading partner, including mainly agricultural, mineral, and energy commodities. China is by far the primary buyer of soybeans, the largest product in the Brazilian export basket. The concern of ruralists that they are not represented in the Brazilian government and that the Chinese contaminate their business prospects led to strong pressure to abandon the ideological discourse in relation to the Asian country.
This chapter analyzes the foreign direct investment of Chinese companies in the Amazon region, drawing upon an unpublished database that maps Chinese projects and corporate operations in the region, focusing on environmental impacts and comparing them with the public discourse of the Chinese Ministry of Trade. We argue that the activities of these companies fluctuate between trying out new models for the use of the land but also with a profound investment in the so-called green marketing or greenwashing.
This chapter presents the initiatives, analyses, and perspectives of Black and feminist collectives in Rio de Janeiro, mobilizing resistance against urban megaprojects in Rio's West Zone and Tijuca. This zone serves as the fraught intersection of racialized urban poverty, police violence, and speculative development projects, including the Olympic Village from the 2016 Games. Many of these projects were financed by China or realized by Chinese contractors. But the complicity of Brazilian capital, local state and municipal officials, real estate development interests, and militias, protection rackets, and militarized police render the influence of China highly mediated and abstracted, in terms of the awareness of local populations. The chapter is based on semistructured interviews and centers the intersecting dimensions of class, gender/sexuality, and race in the economic geography of developmental racism and environmental injustice.
This chapter analyzes the transformations in the relationship of Chinese companies with social movements and community leaders in Rio de Janeiro. The research points to two phases of the Chinese positioning. The first, between 2003 and 2010, was marked by practices that were called "backstage performance," with little or no relationship with local leaders. At that time, Chinese state-owned companies acted through indirect investments or through the purchase of shareholdings in Brazilian companies. The second moment, starting in 2016, reinforces a more direct presence, with Chinese companies acting directly with community leaders. This happened, however, with governments notably less able to promote joint investments and, at the federal level, notably antagonistic to the Chinese presence. This study focuses on the case of the COMPERJ region, in Itaboraí, metropolitan region of Rio de Janeiro, presenting findings from public documents, press articles, and semistructured interviews with local leaders.
It is not difficult to observe the presence of Chinese companies and investments in industrial sectors in the state of Rio de Janeiro. However, there are very few studies of the impact on the real estate market. One of the consequences of "anticorruption" campaigns in the 2014–2018 period was the reduction of major players in the national civil construction sector who had often partnered with China. However, this opened space for smaller business groups, as such actors could benefit from cheap credit, labor, and equipment, and attract Chinese investors to the real estate market to provide financial resources. However, since 2018, Rio has experienced a serious financial crisis, producing a further retraction in the real estate market and a resulting drop in Chinese investment proposals, given not only the limits of commercial viability of the enterprises but also Brazilian partners' difficulties in accessing credit.
This chapter addresses how Ecuador's economic relationship with China has affected domestic unemployment during the 2016–2020 period. This study describes how measures taken by President Lenín Moreno to address Ecuador's excessive debt with China have influenced domestic unemployment. It also examines the economic measures themselves: the Moreno administration's orientation toward paying down foreign debt in order to alleviate the domestic economic crisis, the reduction of public spending in all of its dimensions, the contracting of loans with the International Monetary Fund and other institutions, and the failed attempt to set fair prices for petroleum and its derivatives. This study argues that all of these measures serve purposes that are currently incompatible, pitting the protection of the rights of Ecuadorians against compliance with creditors.
This chapter analyzes Chinese production at the Manaus Free Trade Zone Industrial Center located in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, with a focus on social impacts on local workers. In recent decades, China has risen to the status of a new player in the world economy, leading many authors to call it the "factory of the world." Since the early 2000s, a set of Chinese factories was constructed in the Manaus Free Trade Zone, an economic space created in the 1960s and currently the largest Brazilian center for the production of electronics and motorcycles. This chapter presents research in four Chinese factories located in Manaus, focusing on interactions, mutual perceptions, and struggles between the Chinese managers and local workers, on themes such as minimum wages, laws, and labor benefits.
In this age of globalization, China's state-owned enterprises and capital are spearheading foreign direct investments and a growing number of development projects in the Global South. Drawing from ethnographic research about a Chinese-sponsored hydroelectric construction project in Ecuador, as well as textual analyses of national policies and civil society engagements, this chapter examines how South-South flows of capital and national development priorities serve to structure the organization of work and Chinese and Ecuadorian workers' experience of inequalities. Situating the national development impact of the COVID-19 crisis, this chapter explores China's intentions to play a more visible role in the Global South. Without synergistic measures to guarantee labor rights and protections of both Chinese and Ecuadorian workers in these transnational workplaces, the drives to capital accumulation and flexible labor reform will accentuate existing inequalities and lead to negative impacts on workers' well-being.
This chapter analyzes the role of the state and the socioenvironmental repercussions of the implementation and operation of Porto do Açu, a project on Rio de Janeiro's north coast. Despite being a private enterprise initiated by former billionaire Eike Batista, Porto do Açu received loans from public banks and government funds since it was to be an important nodal point for the export of mineral commodities, mainly to China. Batista organized a delegation to establish negotiations with Chinese companies to convince them to settle in the industrial district of the port. The financial crisis that rocked the EBX Group at the end of 2013 led Porto do Açu to be controlled by the private equity fund EIG Global Partners; since then the project's operational focus has changed substantially, leaving the preferential option in the export of iron ore for oil and gas. However, the effort to attract Chinese investment continued.