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Murphy Sets Sights On China’s Influence Campaign in Latin America, Caribbean

April 13, 2021 by TWN Staff
Chinese president Xi Jinping listens during the closing session of the National People's Congress. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images/TNS)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., is pressing for a comprehensive assessment of China’s efforts to expand its presence and influence in Latin America and the Caribbean and how these efforts could undermine American interests.

Under the auspices of a new bill Murphy has authored, the State Department, Defense Department, National Security Council and other members of the intelligence community would prepare a “holisitic assessment” of the situation and brief Congress on “America’s strategy to counter China’s more malign activities in this vital region.”

“China’s self-serving efforts to project power in South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico — a region of great importance to the United States — have the potential to threaten our national security, our economic prosperity, and our democratic values,” Murphy said in a written statement.

“As America and China compete across nearly every functional and geographic domain, it is critical for U.S. policymakers to understand what China is doing in the region and to have an effective strategy in place to counter China’s aggressive conduct and to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its actions,” she said.

Policymakers have expressed growing concern about China’s diplomatic, military, intelligence, and economic actions in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In recent testimony to Congress, Admiral Craig Faller, the commander of Florida-based U.S. Southern Command, said China is engaged in a “full-court press” in the region and that U.S. influence is “eroding.”

The assessment required by Murphy’s bill, the Assessing China’s Presence and Influence in Latin America and the Caribbean Act, would have both an unclassified and a classified section.

It would examine, among other things:

  • countries in the region with which China maintains the closest relationships and in which it is making significant investments or loans, funding infrastructure projects, or providing foreign assistance;
  • China’s relationship with the governments of Venezuela and Cuba;
  • China efforts to exploit the region’s natural resources, including oil, natural gas, and rare earth metals;
  • Chinese military assets and activities, its sale or transfer of defense equipment, and its role in transnational crime and drug trafficking in the region;
  • whether Chinese investments in the region could have military applications, enable China to intercept U.S. communication, or otherwise threaten U.S. national security;
  • China’s COVID-19 “vaccine diplomacy” in the region and the conditions it attaches to such assistance;
  • the degree to which China has used its influence to build leverage over countries in the region and to coerce those countries into supporting China’s foreign policy goals;
  • the specific actions taken by China in the region that present the greatest threat to United States’ interests.

For a one-page summary of the bill, click here. For the text of the bill, click here.

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