In 1991, with the end of the Cold War, a period of several decades in which the whole world debated communist, and capitalist ideas came to an end. At that time, many optimists indicated that communism was part of a dark past in history and wrote it off.
However, today we can note that the ideology of the communist spectrum did not disappear at all. On the contrary, it simply took various forms and thus managed to spread worldwide.
There are still the typical openly communist dictatorial regimes in some places, such as in China, North Korea, Cuba, and Vietnam. Eastern Europe is also where the communist ideology and customs no longer exist officially but are still in force. There are also several African and Latin American countries where certain political castes keep their populations oppressed in the name of socialism and populism.
Then there are the nations of Europe and North America that have become hosts to communist influences without many people being aware of it. After the working class became bourgeoisie in these regions, communism had no choice but to modify the motives of struggle, confrontation, and hatred by spreading a myriad of hostile ideologies that have nothing to do with the workers’ struggle but maintain in common the idea of destroying the traditional, the established and the straight.
In this sense, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the maximum representative today on earth of this perverse ideology, used diverse mechanisms to favor this ideological expansion.
In this chapter, we will carry out a historical analysis of the relationship of the CCP with Latin America and its attempt to advance its ideology, and its influence on the leftist revolutions of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Finally, we will look and how it finally managed to penetrate in the last decades through strategies that led to controversial economic agreements that, in many cases, put at risk the national sovereignty of the supposed beneficiaries.
CCP exports Maoist ideas to Latin America
After World War II, the world had its eyes on the United States and the Soviet Union, the two great protagonists of the Cold War who debated in tension but without armed confrontation, the economic model to be followed by the post-war world.
Meanwhile, the CCP monster took control of China by force, and the most perverse power in history began to take shape. Until then, it had been an insignificant satellite of the Soviet Union.
Despite the great crisis that the CCP had to face during its first decades of controlling the country, including the great famine that caused the death of millions of people, its campaign to export communism to the rest of the world did not stop growing.
The CCP made exporting the revolution a cornerstone of its foreign policy. Not only providing financial support, training, and weapons for leftist rebellions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America but even sending troops to assist guerrillas fighting against legitimate governments directly.
Between 1958 and 1962, millions of Chinese starved to death. Yet, during those years, foreign aid exceeded 2,360 million yuan, and tens of thousands of tons of rice and wheat were donated to Guinea, Albania, and other countries where communist guerrillas were attempting to seize power.
According to official reports, in 1973, during the Cultural Revolution, CCP spending on foreign aid peaked at nearly 7% of the national budget.
The Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China carried out extensive campaigns to support communist movements in the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, and Latin America. But since the late 1960s, the Soviet Union found itself under the scrutiny of the United States and NATO, and the rest of the European powers, which implied that an imminent escalation of tension could lead to a third world war.
This situation led the Soviet Union to reduce its support to the revolutionary movements that promoted armed struggle in the “third world,” leaving this space to the CCP and generating the beginning of strong internal conflicts between the two countries that disputed the leadership of communism worldwide.
During the Cultural Revolution, the CCP used to have a slogan, “The proletariat can only liberate itself by liberating all humanity,” thus began the empowerment of the CCP worldwide.
By the mid-1960s in Latin America, Maoist communists had already established organizations in Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Venezuela, and Ecuador. The main members were youth and students. With Chinese support, in 1967, the Maoists in Latin America established two guerrilla groups: the People’s Liberation Army of Colombia and the National Liberation Army of Bolivia.
In those years, Abimael Guzman, the Peruvian Communist Party leader, also known as the Shining Path, was also trained directly in Beijing.
Cuban Revolution and its relationship with the CCP
Cuba deserves a separate chapter for the mere fact of being the first communist revolution to come to power in a Latin American country and being the first country in the region to establish official ties with the Chinese regime.
China’s relations with Cuba in the first half of the 1960s, when the Sino-Soviet divide was rapidly intensifying, were decisive for both Beijing and Havana and the world communist movement.
Although the ties of Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban communist movement, with Mao Zedong survived at first, after the Sino-Soviet split, Castro’s dependence on the USSR eventually doomed his courtship with China.
Castro’s vehemently anti-Chinese speech in March 1966 marked the end of the Sino-Cuban friendship.
Years later, Castro finished sinking the relationship when he said in an interview in 1977: “I believe that Mao (Zedong) destroyed with his feet what he did with his head for many years. I am convinced of that. And someday the people of China and the Communist Party of China will have to recognize that,” the Cuban dictator told U.S. journalist Barbara Walters.
However, the Maoist legacy was more than present among other leaders of the Cuban revolution, as in the case of Comandante “Che” Guevara, who acknowledged on many occasions his sympathy and admiration for the Chinese communist regime and especially for its leader Mao Zedong.
Guevara’s repeated criticisms of the Soviet Union and his frequent visits to communist China were one of the main reasons that awakened the well-known rivalry that developed between him and Fidel Castro, who, on the contrary, promoted Cuba’s relationship with the Soviet bloc.
Relations between Cuba and China were not fully restored until 1989 when the Soviet Union fell, and Castro made his first state visit to China in 1995.
Still, under the U.S. economic embargo, Cuba needed to strengthen its ties with other communist allies. As a result, China quickly became one of Cuba’s most crucial trade allies, and the economy was the main focus of Castro’s visit to the Asian country.
The CCP’s loan to Che Guevara
Ernesto Guevara considered China an example to follow and admired Mao Zedong, whom he met on several occasions. The first visit of Comandante Che Guevara was in November 1960, when Chairman Mao himself received him. The leading Chinese media, especially the written press, offered great coverage of the delegation’s visit headed by Che. Since then, visits and meetings with the main referents of the Chinese regime have continued.
In particular, Guevara declared that he had been impressed by how the recent Chinese communist revolution had supposedly transformed a rural society into an industrialized socialist society. In his words, China is an “example” that shows “a new path for the Americas.”
Such was the admiration for the Chinese leader that in Che Guevara’s most basic writings, one can note the presence of Maoist theory accompanied by revolutionary Leninism and Marxist theory as a fundamental structure.
The admiration seems to have been mutual. Mao himself recognized the “good work done by Guevara and his allies in Cuba” and, at that time, pledged his unconditional support to the Cuban revolution.
Given the dispute between the CCP and the Soviet Union to lead the international communist movement, it is assumed that Mao had a particular interest in deepening his relationship with Guevara.
So much so that, according to historical records, the Chinese communist regime lent $60 million to the guerrilla fighter Guevara after he visited China to collaborate with the communist advance in Latin America. The CCP loan was at a time when the Chinese people were starving during the failed campaign of the Great Leap Forward.
In 1980 over 50 communist parties in Latin America had a strong Maoist influence.
During the 1970s and 1980s, popular uprisings in Latin America motivated by international communism gave no respite to the weak democracies, which alternated with military coups seeking to halt the leftist advance in the region.
Among the leftist groups, the Maoist movement was undoubtedly one of the most popular and violent.
The so-called Shining Path in Peru, the Revolutionary Communist Party in Argentina, the Revolutionary Independent Workers’ Movement in Colombia, and many other political groups of young revolutionaries adopted Maoism as the fundamental political theory to carry out their guerrilla actions.
Maoism confronted the Soviet current, which seemed, according to a large part of the Latin American left, to play along and be functional to “North American imperialism.”
The Latin Maoists promoted the armed struggle to the last consequences, as indicated in the bloody manual of the then leader of the Chinese Communist Party, Mao Zedong, causing the death of tens of thousands of innocent people in terrorist attacks in their attempt to seize power.
Did communism fail in Latin American countries or did it take different forms?
Suppose we analyze only armed struggles as a determining factor for communist success. Then, it can be affirmed that communism in Latin America failed almost entirely, with some exceptions such as Cuba and Venezuela, where it is still in force although under a deep economic, political, and social crisis.
However, a deeper analysis of history shows that most Latin American countries fell into different variants of socialism. And left or center-left political parties came to power, assuming names such as Democratic Socialist Party and Socialist Party of the People. Moreover, several groupings in Latin America removed the words “communist party” from their names but continued to promote leftist ideologies, becoming even more deceptive in their activities.
A great Latin American movement with populist characteristics emerged, allowing the working class to become the “bourgeoisie” but maintaining the authoritarianism typical of communism, the limits to liberties, the idolization of specific “party” figures, and the constant attempt to make the citizenry believe that the government belongs to the people, who will be empowered and enriched if they follow the “leader.” However, these false promises were never fulfilled in Latin America.
In this sense, it can be said in general terms that in Latin America, the left could not take power by force, but a cultural battle was unleashed, which seems to have been won, at least so far, by the socialist left. This has paved the way for the CCP to penetrate free of obstacles and intervene, like a specter in silence and dissimulation, into practically all aspects of daily life.
Cold War ends, China joins WTO and the impact on Latin America
The end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet bloc, and the implementation of economic reforms in China seemed to signal the end of the threat of communism to the free world and humanity.
In reality, the retreat between the United States and the Soviet Union left the CCP out of the spotlight. Instead, it gave it several decades to shore up its totalitarian system and implement its plan to penetrate the Western world.
In 2001, with the support of then U.S. President Bill Clinton, China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), from which point the country achieved unprecedented growth in economic terms.
Attracted by the conditions of zero labor costs and regulations, China began to receive from the West direct investment flows representing up to 16% of its fixed capital formation every year (mainly from the United States), generating an unprecedented trade surplus.
The surplus money that the communist regime began to generate, derived from its large trade surplus, began to be strategically invested in those countries that the communist party leadership considered suitable.
The regime’s new purchasing power meant that Chinese imports began to be a fundamental factor in many countries’ economic systems, including those in Latin America.
China’s influence in the world has reached levels that were unthinkable 20 years ago. Through economic and corporate mechanisms, it has managed to impose its commercial logic and its political logic.
These mechanisms are based on two fundamental economic pillars: investment from the Chinese regime, both public and private (in the form of direct investment or financing), and targeted purchases abroad that were carefully assembled within its investment strategy for its own economic and geopolitical development, as in the case of the large imports of minerals in the region.
There is a third pillar, the financial one, which is no less important in developing the CCP’s influence globally, which derives from its portfolio investments with its purchases of assets, bonds and stocks.
The construction of these forms of power began with much dissimulation at the beginning of the millennium. However, it was not until the founding of the so-called “Belt and Roead Initiative” (BRI) project in 2013 that the commercial/imperialist advance became institutionalized in Latin America, Africa, Europe, and the United States.
Despite the structural changes shown to the world in recent years, China has remained, behind closed doors, the same dictatorial, violent and perverse communist regime as always. But, now, with a global prominence that did not exist before and more power to influence the Western world.
Allowing China to join the WTO was perhaps one of the worst historical mistakes of the West since the CCP never adopted Western values such as freedom of speech, market, and creed. On the contrary, it continued to have the worst record of human rights violations globally.
Neo-colonization: Consequences of China’s plan to conquer Latin America
The Asian giant subjugates impoverished countries with loans and promises of investment. Cheap labor, precariousness, and environmental deterioration are the economic model it intends to replicate in Latin America, just as it imposed in the African countries where it intervened in previous years.
For some years now, China has initiated a slow but constant process of “neo-colonization” in Latin America.
The current times no longer allow imperialist countries to move forward with military invasions, or at least it is very costly for those who dare to do so. That is why the expansionist voracity of the Chinese communist regime bears the stamp of the U.S. Federal Reserve: its officials offer dollars, lots of dollars, to countries generally in need of them and with high levels of corruption, and from there, they build their web of power.
The tactic of soft loans and fresh money is repeated in almost all countries that open the door to the regime, but nothing is free. In return, it demands guarantees of access to the country’s valuable natural resources.
And so, it was mainly the populist governments of Latin America, steeped in communist ideology and many with theoretical roots in Mao Zedong himself, that allowed the disbursement of almost $200 billion from 2005 to the present.
The Chavista dictatorship in Venezuela, led by current leader Nicolás Maduro, is Latin America’s principal debtor. According to the China-Latin America Financial Database, credits disbursed to Caracas in the last ten years amount to some $62 billion.
More than a third of that sum is outstanding, and Venezuela is nowhere near being in a position to meet the debt. But Beijing does not seem to be worried because it knows that a steady trickle of barrels of oil along with mining and oil exploitation areas will be gained in exchange for not being a hostile creditor.
In conclusion, the Chinese communist regime did not manage to penetrate Latin America through aggressive combat policies. Instead, it achieved unprecedented influence in the last 20 years through its growing economic power, becoming a critical commercial and financial partner in the region.
It managed to displace the former colonial and military powers that, for centuries, made decisions on the continent. In this way, the CCP obtained a fundamental geopolitical position with access to and control over valuable resources.