The China-Latin America story seems to share a lot in common with the China-Africa story: a sudden upswing in trade and economic ties and a China that is seen as the possible answer to poverty and infrastructure woes. Monica DeHart’s “Remodeling the Global Development Landscape: the China Model and South-South Cooperation in Latin America”, offers a nice entry point into this comparison.
Summary: DeHart covers the rhetoric behind ‘The China Model’ and ‘South-South Cooperation’ to show how both sit at the convergence between Western and Chinese representations of China both as a “powerful new development donor and a mere developing nation peer” (1361). DeHart weaves qualitative evidence from Costa Rica’s new stadium (funded and built by the Chinese) together with a larger analysis China’s engagement in Latin America based on economic interests (mutual benefit), not political ideology. DeHart also focuses on what this new arrangement means for Costa Rica’s identity – a “reinterpretation of the value of Chinese and Costa Rican culture and their embodiment of First (and Third) World identities” (1372).
Reflections: The ethnographic excerpts sprinkled throughout DeHart’s piece are a wonderful window into the everyday realities of the rhetoric DeHart studies. For example, she deftly uses the new stadium’s construction by Chinese laborers to show the both “authoritarian, exploitative development practices” (aka the China Model invoked by the West) and the ‘South-South’ friendship where Costa Rican locals were impressed by the Chinese laborers’ “efficiency and industriousness” (1369).