China Goes after South America’s New Treasure: Lithium PART II – by Sabina Nicholls (Dialogo Americas – August 14, 2023)

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With a triple action of state investment, diplomacy, and geostrategic corruption, China is leading the race for lithium. This situation was discussed in the first part of this report, exposing the tactics of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to conquer the Andean countries rich in this metal.

But what is a gain for China is a loss for Latin America. Experts and analysts are alarmed by the socio-environmental impact of Chinese investments in the exploration and exploitation of lithium and fear a dependence on the Asian country to obtain this mineral, indispensable for the modern world and the energy transition.

Advantages for China, disadvantages for the region

Part of the attraction of partnering with Beijing, in the opinion of experts, is the very nature of Chinese agreements. The PRC has demonstrated that, when partnering with countries of the region, they will find fewer demands on environmental, economic, and political conditions than those de rigueur in Western investor contracts.

“Governments know that Chinese companies will not bring the same quality that U.S. or European companies can offer, but they also know that they will bring fewer headaches, fewer environmental, and human rights lessons,” Ryan C. Berg, director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told Diálogo.

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