#06 – China and Latin America Relations: South-South Ties and the Global Commodity Boom

event #06
March, 22 2011

Prof. Dr. Matt Ferchen
Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, Tsinghua University



China‐Latin America trade and investment relations have expanded rapidly in the past decade. It is commonly recognized that the basis for this expanded economic relationship is China’s demand for Latin American natural resources. However, there is less agreement about the consequences of this burgeoning relationship, with many on both sides highly optimistic about the possibility for continuing rapid expansion in economic and political relations while others worry about the health and sustainability of commodity‐based trade and investment. This has resulted in dual narratives, with some describing the China‐Latin America relationship as complementary and South‐South while others emphasize dependency.
However, Ferchen argues that no assessment of the health and stability of the China‐Latin America relationship is complete without a better understanding of Chinese commodity demand. Chinese demand for key Latin American commodities, including mineral resources like iron ore, is based on a boom in domestic Chinese heavy industrial production, which in turn has fueled a global commodity boom for inputs to feed that boom. Chinese industrial (over)production has only increased as a result of stimulus and credit policies in the wake of the global financial crisis, causing concern inside and outside of China about capacity and asset bubbles.
Therefore, Ferchen emphasizes that the basis of China‐Latin America trade and investment relations is both more narrow and more fragile than is commonly understood. Ferchen argues that the current China‐Latin America trade and investment, and also political, relationship needs to be understood in the context of historical commodity boom and bust cycles.

Speaker Biography

Ferchen is the first and only full‐time, foreign faculty member in his department. He teaches courses on international political economy and area studies, with a focus on Chinese political economy and China‐Latin America economic and political ties. His research interests are in Chinese domestic political economy and the politics of China’s trade and investment relations with Latin America. Ferchen is also the editor of the Chinese Journal of International Politics (CJIP), which is published by Oxford University Press. Since 1996, Ferchen has conducted field work in Latin America and China on trade and investment ties between the two regions. In addition to giving academic and professional presentations on China‐Latin America relations in China, Latin America and the United States, Ferchen has published his findings in English and Chinese. In addition to recent opinion pieces in Caijing and Caixin, co‐authored with Alicia Garcia‐Herrero from BBVA, Ferchen has recently published an article titled “China‐Latin America Relations: Long‐Term Boon or Short‐Term Boom?” Ferchen has an MA in international affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of  Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University.

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