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Bloomberg:  Eric Farnsworth on China's Pandemic-Era Influence in Latin America

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

(Interview starts at 27:05).

Eric Farnsworth, vice president of AS/COA, spoke to Bloomberg's Shery Ahn about China's efforts to expand its role in the Americas. Farnsworth said that, amid the coronavirus crisis, countries across the region are willing to take help from wherever they can get it, explaining that China has been offering ventilators and protective equipment "with great fanfare."

"This isn’t just a scenario of 'medical diplomacy,' it goes much deeper than that. It's a play for the long-term hearts and minds of Latin America and the Caribbean," Farnsworth said. "I think the broader narrative even is that China is looking to try to create a narrative to equate its own system with Western democracies in terms of being of equal value. This is critically important because if they can show through the coronavirus scenario that the Chinese system can produce better results, quicker recoveries, more equipment, and the Western democracies continue to struggle in that way, you come out of this with at least a question in many markets around the world of what is the 'superior system?' That is really what’s at stake here."

Farnsworth said that many countries in Latin America could not react the same way China did to the pandemic, emphasizing that the Chinese system is "adept" and "centrally planned." He said countries like Venezuela or Nicaragua, where leaders do not behave in a democratic manner, may be more susceptible to influence. "Countries with weak rule of law, weak protections of civil liberties, human rights, and perhaps weak democratic institutions—I think those are the ones who are going to be more vulnerable to this kind of exploitation down the road."