Argentina Joins China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping (right) meets with Argentine President Alberto Fernandez, who attended the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, on February 6.
Liu Weibing/Xinhua via Getty Images

Argentina Joins China’s Belt and Road Initiative

One of Latin America’s largest economies jumps on Beijing’s bandwagon.

Argentina announced on February 6 that it would join China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The leaders of the two countries announced this in a memorandum of understanding while Argentine President Alberto Fernández was visiting the Beijing Olympic Games. The Belt and Road Initiative (bri) is China’s program to invest in global infrastructure development.

Buenos Aires states China has promised Argentina investment of over $23.7 billion. Fernández and Chinese General Secretary Xi Jinping also agreed to a five-year agricultural cooperation plan. Many of the deal’s provisions haven’t yet been announced in detail.

Before the Beijing trip, Fernández visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. He reportedly told Putin: “I am determined that Argentina has to stop being dependent on the [International Monetary] Fund and the United States, and here I believe that Russia has an important place.”

Asia Times wrote: “Coming in the midst of the Ukraine crisis, this was the first of two diplomatic slaps in the face of the U.S. government, which is boycotting the games in Beijing. Fernández attended the opening ceremony.”

Argentina’s shaky economy has been shrinking since 2017. The Index of Economic Freedom ranked Argentina at “the very bottom of the ‘Mostly Unfree’ category” of economies. In 2021, the nation had an urban poverty rating of 40.6 percent and a childhood poverty rating of 54.3 percent. Since joining the International Monetary Fund (imf) in 1956, Argentina has needed 21 emergency financial-support programs. It has been looking for an economic lifeline away from America and the U.S.-based imf.

China also took the opportunity to jab at the United Kingdom. According to the memorandum, “the two sides reaffirmed that they will continue to provide each other with firm support on issues related to each other’s sovereign interests. … [The] Chinese side reiterates its support for [Argentina’s] demand for the full exercise of the sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands and for the resumption of negotiations as soon as possible.” The Malvinas Islands is the Spanish name for Britain’s Falkland Islands. The Falklands are off the southern coast of Argentina but claimed by Buenos Aires.

Argentina also affirmed its “adherence to the one-China principle,” recognizing Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. This comes as China threatens Taiwan with invasion.

Britain lashed out at China following the joint statement. UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted, “We completely reject any questions over sovereignty of the Falklands. The Falklands are part of the British family, and we will defend their right to self-determination. China must respect the Falklands’ sovereignty.”

China’s embassy in the UK in response supported Argentina’s “full sovereignty over the Malvinas Islands.”

Fernández’s government is not a friend of the West.

China has recently been expanding its economic footprint in Latin America. But Argentina especially is a country to watch. Despite its financial woes, Argentina is one of Latin America’s largest economies. More importantly, it controls an important trade choke point: Tierra del Fuego.

North America has three sea lanes connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific. The Northwest Passage, through Canada’s Arctic, is sealed with ice for most of the year and isn’t a practical option. The Panama Canal is the easiest route. The other route is to sail around Tierra del Fuego, on the southern tip of Argentina. Since the Panama Canal opened, not many ships sail around Tierra del Fuego anymore. However, if anything were to happen to the Panama Canal, Tierra del Fuego would be the only comparable sea gate in the New World.

The Panama Canal is controlled by CK Hutchinson Holdings Ltd., a Chinese conglomerate. The Falkland Islands’ proximity to Tierra del Fuego gives the British a presence around this other choke point. But China is recruiting Argentina as an ally. It is at the same time pressuring Britain to give up the Falklands. If China succeeds, it would have influence over both major Atlantic-Pacific trade gates.

China is arguably America’s and Britain’s biggest trade competitor worldwide. This could mean disaster for Western economies.

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in his booklet China’s Dangerous Move Against America, regarding the Chinese takeover of the Panama Canal: “An enterprise of China—the nation possessing the world’s largest army, which is aggressively expanding its navy and air force—took control of the major sea-transit gateway between East and West. If China were to suddenly sink a large ship in the canal or otherwise sabotage it, the nation could deny the U.S. Navy access through this strategic choke point. The wartime implications of that are alarming!”

Now Beijing is also cultivating a relationship with the country that controls Tierra del Fuego. Whether China becomes the country to control this valuable gate remains to be seen. But the current government in Buenos Aires is not friends with either America or Britain. If push comes to shove, it may not need powerful backers behind it to close Tierra del Fuego to trade. It would only need a weak America and Britain.

To learn more about China’s inroads into Latin America and what it means for the West, please request a free copy of China’s Dangerous Move Against America.