China and Russia are expanding their influence in Latin America and the Caribbean, and challenging the United States’ ability to deter conflict, according to two U.S. generals who spoke at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 24.
The Chinese Communist Party is working to erode the international order in a grand effort to replace it with a system more favorable to the Party’s interests, said Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Southern Command.
“The PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] ambition to fundamentally revise the world order to serve its authoritarian goals and expand its global influence has triggered a new era of strategic competition with the United States,” she said.
Richardson said that China is expanding its footprint throughout South America as a part of that effort and is making strategic investments in the United States’ own “neighborhood” in a manner similar to the economic takeover it began throughout Africa nearly two decades ago.
“PRC activities include investments in strategic infrastructure, systematic technology and intellectual property theft, disinformation and propaganda campaigns, and malicious cyber activity, all with the goal of expanding long-term access and influence in this hemisphere,” Richardson said.
“The PRC continues its relentless march to expand its economic, diplomatic, technological, informational, and military influence in [Latin America and the Caribbean] and challenges U.S. influence in all these areas.”
Richardson said expansion through Latin America presents a unique threat insofar as civilian infrastructure built in the Americas could later be used for military purposes. New observation platforms, for example, could be used to track U.S. satellites over the region.
When asked if she believed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to be an adversary of the United States, she responded affirmatively.
“They are definitely competitors, and I do look at them as adversaries,” Richardson said.