China advances in South America with the support of local governments » latinapress news

China’s quest to expand its influence in the world is nothing new. However, his advances in recent years have raised alarm bells in the United States and the European Union, which view Xi Jinping’s regime’s projects around the world with great suspicion. Seeking to expand its economic, diplomatic, technological, information technology and even military influence, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has launched projects in Latin American and Caribbean countries that have, in many cases, led to controversy and fraud. The Argentina case is one of the most controversial, according to a recent report by the International Coalition Against Illicit Economies, which focuses on one of Xi Jinping’s most valuable businesses: lithium. The Alberto Fernandez-Cristina Kirchner duo has been prime minister for the last four years. However, this time was enough to deepen the alliance with China and advance all kinds of agreements.

In any case, the relationship began with meetings between Xi and Kirchner years ago, when he was the current vice president at Rivadavia. Since then, China has found an ally at the head of the country, giving it access to sensitive areas of national and international strategic interest and sparing it from judicial investigations. For example, Asian giant banks have lent $17 billion to develop about 36 projects across the country. These include building a port that would provide access to Antarctica from Ushuaia, operating a space station in Neuquén that Argentina cannot control or enter, and the strategic, profitable and vital mining of lithium. Of course, to operate in this way requires a support network that stretches across the provinces. These are the rulers of Argentina who have the constitutional power to manage the main strategic resources in their territory and can therefore negotiate agreements directly with their counterparts in other countries. And Beijing knows this. China’s eagerness to expand into new territories, along with the fraudulent structures on which final decisions are based, make alliances almost undeniable.

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The importance of Argentine lithium

Argentina – especially in the Northwest (NEA) – together with Bolivia and Chile form the lithium triangle, which contains an estimated 55% of the world’s reserves of this product, known as “white gold”. Although the latter is more advanced in terms of exploitation and commercialization, Argentina has the advantage of being expected to be a leader in this field over the next five years. This forecast is supported by the latest lithium export data, which shows an increase from $206 million in 2021 to $696 million in the coming period – and is expected to triple in the coming years. With this, “Oro Blanco” became one of the fastest growing industries in the country, despite only being present in a few provinces. Salta accounts for 41% of reserves, Catamarca 22% and Jujuy 21.45%. Many American and European companies have recognized this scenario and tried to enter the field, but for now, Argentina has favored the arrival of the Chinese and left them at a disadvantage. A cooperative consortium for the production of lithium-ion batteries was formed last year by oil company YPF and its subsidiary Y-TEC in cooperation with three Chinese companies: Amperex Contemporary Technology Corporation, Tianqui Lithium and Gotion High Tech. However, no clear bid documents, concrete general plans, or financial details have yet been known.

This is not the only thing that is setting off alarm bells for the report’s authors. They also refer to the lengthy process that lithium must go through once it is mined before it can be made into a battery. It must first be sent to China for processing, and then returned to Argentina and modified in Santiago del Estero. However, the way this works in practice is not insignificant as Santiago del Estero is located on an inland sea. This means that loading onto a ship bound for the Asian continent and back would require a huge fleet of trucks to transport the lithium to Rosario, the nearest port province. The idea may seem feasible in theory, but in reality it is not because the quantities of lithium to be transported are enormous and the cost of gas and personnel will not leave any income. On the other hand, transportation by train is out of the question, as there are hardly any railways in the area and the conditions are very poor.

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A particular strategy relies on finely tuned action within the provinces. To silence dissenting voices opposing foreign initiatives – mainly by indigenous groups and NGOs – the local government relies on its security forces, who are obedient and loyal to its will. In this way, any attempts at rejection or attack by the press—which generally attack how rather than what projects are—are exposed and suppressed almost immediately, leaving the provinces’ image untarnished. “When tribal communities demand a seat at the table to negotiate with mining companies, or demand an end to the pollution of their natural water systems, rulers respond to these off-duty forces, often by donning military uniforms and posing as police,” explains a human rights activist, quoted in the report. . Ultimately, experts argue, the PRC’s inevitable progress on Argentina and its strategic resources is “a matter of two factors.” Xi Jinping’s will would not have been so successful were it not for a web of corruption with the help of South American governments, paving the way for him to expand his economic, political and military influence while profiting from these deals.

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