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Chinese and US Engagement with Developing Countries News Roundup: Apr.8 – Apr.26, 2019

Every two weeks, The Carter Center’s China Program releases an overview of major events involving Chinese and US global engagement, with a particular focus on emerging issues in Africa and Latin America. In addition to using news sources, the news roundup will analyze papers and reports from academic journals, governmental bodies, and NGOs, and will also summarize debates and other events organized by think tanks on select issues. The news roundup is intended to be a platform and resource for both China watchers and for readers interested in political and economic development in developing countries. It aims to deepen the understanding of China’s foreign policy, and emerging issues and trends in developing countries, as well as to enhance the prospect of multinational cooperation among China, the U.S., Africa and Latin America.

Lessons from East Asia: Comparing Ethiopia and Vietnam’s Early-Stage Special Economic Zone Development  

(Keyi Tang, CARI Policy Brief No. 5, 2019)

Keyi Tang, a M.A. student of International Economics at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, wrote both a policy brief and working paper for the John Hopkins’ SAIS China-Africa Research Initiative on the lessons sub-Saharan African and Southeast Asian countries can learn from the use of special economic zones (SEZs) by East Asian countries in their own industrialization. She specifically researched Ethiopia and Vietnam’s early-stage industrialization, and how each country learned from the examples and assistance of China and Taiwan, respectively. Her research was conducted through field work, a comparative case study of four SEZs, and interviews with 50+ stakeholders. She concluded with three policy recommendations: (1) Ethiopia and Vietnam should give local SEZ authorities more freedom to make their own decisions to attract investors, (2) policy learning needs to involve adapting lessons from foreign examples into a local context in order to succeed, and (3) Ethiopia should allow more private sector participation in the development of SEZs, specifically through public-private partnerships. Here is a link to the entire working paper.

Central American Aid will be Conditional, Mike Pompeo Says  

(Teresa Welsh, 2019-04-10)

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that in order to resume receiving U.S. foreign assistance, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras will need to comply with a set of requirements outlined by the Trump administration. The pause on foreign aid was due to President Trump’s frustration with the influx of migrants and asylum-seekers coming to the U.S. from these countries. Now, the administration, in conjunction with USAID, is looking into focusing the aid programs to these countries on addressing the root issues that cause citizens to leave. USAID Administrator Mark Green said that USAID wants to focus on the areas where many asylum-seekers and migrants come from and that the programs will be crafted “to address both the issues of migration but also economic opportunity.”

Report to Congress on China’s Engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean  

(Congressional Research Service, 2019-04-11)

The U.S. Naval Institute posted the entirety of the U.S. Congressional Research Service’s report to Congress on China’s Engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean. The report outlines China’s diplomatic and economic engagements in the region over the past twenty years, as well as the U.S.’ policy concerns and considerations about this involvement. The report was written by Mark P. Sullivan, specialist in Latin American affairs, and Thomas Lunn, specialist in Asian affairs. According to the report, the Trump administration has met Chinese engagement in Latin America with more skepticism than its predecessors. Its main concerns are that China is using this engagement to gain more global influence and power and that China is not being transparent enough in its involvements.

‘Mr. Pompeo, You Can Stop.’ China Refutes ‘Despicable’ U.S. Criticism of Its Involvement in Venezuela  

(Amy Gunia, 2019-04-16)

While visiting Latin America in mid-April, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized China for its support of Venezuela’s incumbent President Nicolas Maduro, saying it was contributing to prolonging the Venezuelan crisis. The U.S. and many other Western countries have given their support to opposition leader Juan Guaido as the rightful president. Chinese foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang fired back at Pompeo, saying that his comments were despicable lies. He also defended the right of Latin American countries to make their own decisions, saying they have “good judgement about who is their true friend and who is false, and who is breaking rules and making trouble.”

China and Latin America 2.0: What the Next Phase of the Relationship May Look Like, In the New Issue of Americas Quarterly  

(AS-COA, 2019-04-23)

Americas Quarterly published an issue on the future of Latin American countries’ relationships with China, including from the political, economic, and cultural points of view. The Sino-Latin American relationship is only deepening as trade relationships and infrastructure projects grow. It is a 116-page issue which features essays from many distinguished scholars on various aspects of the topic, including Richard Lapper, Margaret Myers, Eric Farnsworth, Lucia He, and more. The issue will be available online on May 1 at

News: China’s Reprieve on Interest-Free Loan Only  

(Addis Standard, 2019-04-25)

(Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy and China Vice Premier Li Keqiang shake hands. Credit: Addis Standard)
(Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy and China Vice Premier Li Keqiang shake hands. Credit: Addis Standard)

It has recently been made clear that China’s pledge to write off Ethiopia’s debt only refers to interest-free loans, rather than all loans. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy said while attending the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing that Ethiopia looks forward to continuing to deepen its relationship with China. In addition to speaking with President Xi Jinping, PM Abiy also met with officials from the China Railway Construction Corporation, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, and the State Grid Corporation of China.

Chile to China: Let us Be Your Business Hub in Latin America 

(Dave Sherwood, 2019-04-25)

While addressing an investment forum in China on Thursday, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera extended an invitation to China to use Chile as a business hub in Latin America, saying that Chile wanted more Chinese investment in the areas of technology, electric vehicles, telecommunications, and e-commerce. While visiting China, Pinera has met with many companies in these fields. This invitation comes soon after U.S. Secretary of State warned Chile against involvement with China. However, Chile’s stance has remained that it wants to stay uninvolved from the political and economic tensions and stay focused on free and open trade instead.