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The Strategic Role of Latin America in a Global Conflict Over Taiwan

R. Evan Ellis
R. Evan Ellis CEEEP

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This work examines the role that Latin America might play as an object of Chinese military activities, in the context of a future struggle with the United States and allied Western powers over Taiwan. It argues that the orientation of People’s Republic of China (PRC) leadership, its growing military power, diplomatic isolation of Taiwan and other factors are making such a conflict increasingly possible. It finds that Latin America and the Caribbean present strategic diplomatic, economic, and military objectives that the PRC will be tempted to exploit in the context of such a struggle, including digital architectures, the space domain, ports and airfields, and other strategic geography.

Keywords: PRC, Taiwan, Conflict, Digital, Space, Military, Strategic Infrastructure.


In August 2022, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) space tracking ship Yuan Wang 5 made a port call in Hanbantota, a facility operated by China Merchants Port Holdings (CM Port).1 Control of the facility had been ceded to CM Port in December 2017,2 in exchange for forgiveness of debt incurred to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by its predecessor government of the opposing party. The port call by the PLAN vessel Yuan Wang 5 illustrated that Chinese military use of strategic facilities around the globe does not require formal basing agreements or military alliances. Indeed, the Yuan Wang 5 episode highlights that combination of operation of a strategic facility by a PRC-based commercial entity, combined with significant economic leverage over, and friendly relations with the partner nation, may be enough.

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