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Chinese Military and Police Engagement in Latin America

R. Evan Ellis
R. Evan Ellis SSI

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In: Enabling a More Externally Focused and Operational PLA, Roger Cliff and Roy Kamphausen, Eds., (Carlisle Barracks, PA:  U.S. Army War College Press, 2022), pp. 51-66.

Chinese military engagement in Latin America and the Caribbean is an important and officially acknowledged part of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) growing interactions with the region. The 2008 and 2016 Chinese policy white papers on Latin America as well as the 2015 and 2019 Chinese defense white papers expressly mention military and other security activities as an important component of China’s overall engagement with the region.1

China’s 2019 defense white paper explicitly mentions the country’s strengthening of defense engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean as well as Africa and the South Pacific.2 The economic activities of the People’s Republic of China in Latin America arguably eclipse military ones when examining the resources and people involved and the attention given to economic activities in official discourse and interactions. Such a low profile, including a general avoidance of threatening rhetoric or provocative military actions by Chinese leaders in Latin America, should not distract from the importance of Chinese security activities as an integral part of China’s 
multidimensional engagement in pursuit of its strategic objectives in the region and globally.3

The core PRC objective—as expressed in leadership statements, such as President Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” speech, and policy documents, such as “Made in China 2025”—is arguably the creation of a prosperous and secure Chinese state.4
 In economic terms, constructing a prosperous and secure state involves building a strong and diverse economy complemented by a robust commercial relationship with the rest of the world in which Chinese companies have dominant positions in capturing significant portions of the value added in global supply chains and owning strategic assets that give the country predictable access to markets and factor inputs on terms that...