China’s decision to expand its ambitious multi-trillion-dollar “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative to Latin America may create security vulnerabilities for the United States by allowing Beijing to expand its influence over the region, the chief of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) cautioned lawmakers.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Thursday, Adm. Kurt Tidd, the commander of SOUTHCOM, testified that Beijing has already pledged $500 billion in trade funds with various Latin American countries and $250 billion in Chinese direct investment over the next decade, adding:
Increased economic cooperation—such as the extension of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative to Latin America, one of the nodes to support China’s vision of a competing global economic initiative—and the continued provision of financing and loans that appear to have “no strings attached” provide ample opportunity for China to expand its influence over key regional partners and promote unfair business and labor practices.
Increased reach to key global access points like Panama create commercial and security vulnerabilities for the United States, as do Chinese telecommunications and space ventures with dual-use potential, which could facilitate intelligence collection, compromise communication networks, and ultimately constrain our ability to work with our partners.
Adm. Tidd’s warnings about Chinese activities in Latin America are contained in SOUTHCOM’s 2018 posture statement, a summary of the combatant command’s role, mission, operations, and budget presented to Congress on an annual basis in the form of written testimony.
In this year’s document, Tidd stressed that China is intensifying its role as a U.S. rival in Latin America, telling lawmakers:
The larger strategic challenge posed by China in this region is not yet a military one. It is an economic one, and a new approach may be required to compete effectively against China’s coordinated efforts in the Americas. Some of the most critical elements needed in this effort are not ones that [SOUTHCOM] can bring to bear.
Beijing’s estimated $3 trillion OBOR project, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the modern-day “Silk Road,” is expected to be a massive network of land and sea links connecting Xinjiang, China’s biggest province, to more than 60 countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa along one route.
Message too long. Click here to view full text.