For four centuries before the 1898 Spanish-American war, Europe was practically the only destination of Latin America’s much-coveted raw materials, from gold and silver to sugar cane and spices. Then in the 20th century the United States took Europe’s place as main importer of these commodities.
Now in the 21st century, China is fast overtaking and displacing both the United States and Europe in Latin American trade. Latin American business elites and governments on the left and the right, hungry for foreign investment and exchange, welcome the opportunity to do business with the Chinese. But environmentalists and progressives in the region are concerned about China’s growing influence, decrying that much of its investment is going into environmentally unsustainable activities and is putting local and national sovereignty into question.