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In the first in a new Wilson Center series on “medical diplomacy” in Latin America, the region hardest hit by COVID-19, Professor Cynthia Sanborn of Peru’s Universidad del Pacífico examines the geopolitical implications of China’s robust pandemic response.

In her article, “Latin America and China in Times of COVID-19,” Sanborn outlines Beijing’s “timely, strategic, and significant” contributions to Latin America’s COVID-19 response, beginning almost immediately after the virus reached the region. China’s support has included medical supply donations, the speedy sale of masks, ventilators, and ambulances, and a promised $1 billion donation for coronavirus vaccines. This Chinese effort has vastly outstripped U.S. support. However, Sanborn says the geopolitical consequences are uncertain. Ideological divisions in Latin America and intensifying “superpower rivalries” complicate the region’s dealings with China. Moreover, Latin America’s economic relationship with China remains “concentrated in the export of natural resources and commercial agricultural products,” limiting its contributions to Latin America’s economic diversification and development.

Future reports, from the Wilson Center’s Latin American Program and Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, will look at the U.S. and Taiwanese pandemic responses in Latin America, and the potential impacts of China’s economic slowdown on its engagement in Latin America. For more information on “medical diplomacy” in Latin America, please visit our interactive tracker and COVID-19 portal.

About the Author

image - Cynthia Sanborn

Cynthia Sanborn

Former Fellow;
Professor of Political Science and Researcher, Center for China and Asia-Pacific Studies, Universidad del Pacifico, Peru
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Latin America Program

The Wilson Center’s prestigious Latin America Program provides non-partisan expertise to a broad community of decision makers in the United States and Latin America on critical policy issues facing the Hemisphere. The Program provides insightful and actionable research for policymakers, private sector leaders, journalists, and public intellectuals in the United States and Latin America. To bridge the gap between scholarship and policy action, it fosters new inquiry, sponsors high-level public and private meetings among multiple stakeholders, and explores policy options to improve outcomes for citizens throughout the Americas. Drawing on the Wilson Center’s strength as the nation’s key non-partisan policy forum, the Program serves as a trusted source of analysis and a vital point of contact between the worlds of scholarship and action.  Read more

Kissinger Institute on China and the United States

The Kissinger Institute works to ensure that China policy serves American long-term interests and is founded in understanding of historical and cultural factors in bilateral relations and in accurate assessment of the aspirations of China’s government and people.  Read more