China begins charm offensive in South America amid controversy over Amazonian railway
Beijing denies that Li Keqiang’s eight-day visit to South America, which begins in Brazil, means China is muscling in on the United States “backyard”
Top of their agenda will be the so-called trans-Amazonian railroad which would link Rio de Janeiro’s Atlantic coast with Peru’s Pacific coast, cutting through remote areas of rainforest that are home to a wealth of biodiversity as well as numerous indigenous tribes. Mr Li is expected to announce a feasibility study for the megaproject during his trip.
This is different (at least so far) from the proposed Nicaragua Canal in two major ways:
- The Brazil-Peru railway is officially backed by the Chinese government, which sent prime minister Li Keqiang. The Nicaragua Canal project’s only investor is Wang Jing’s HKND Group (which may or may not be a cover for the Chinese government – who knows?), a company that made a $300 million telecommunications contract with Nicaragua.
- Li is, from the start, announcing feasibility studies. With the Nicaragua Canal so far, no details on where the funds come from and no feasibility studies (if any) have been made public.
After three days in Brazil, Li will head to Colombia, Peru and Chile.
Environmental concerns are not very high on China’s priorities.