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China in Africa: The Real Story

The $100 Billion Chinese Investment in Latin America Myth

Deborah Brautigam

This weekend, I came across a Latin American myth about Chinese economic engagement circulating around cyberspace. In a November 2004 speech to Brazil's parliament, Chinese president Hu Jintao (allegedly) said that China would invest $100 billion in Latin America over the next few years. Whoa, I thought. This is way too high, it can't be right. I googled "$100 billion investment Hu Jintao 2004 Brazil" and got dozens of references to this alleged pledge. So I then checked the Chinese English language media. China Daily carried the actual speech in full. This revealed that Hu had actually pledged to increase trade between China and Latin America ... to $100 billion by 2010. Not investment.

Sigh. Even the Congressional Research Service repeated the $100 billion investment figure in an otherwise pretty good 2008 report to Congress ("China's Foreign Policy and 'Soft Power' in South America, Asia, and Africa"). With "facts" like this floating around the Hill, it's no wonder alarm bells go off.