Goodbye gringo, come on in chino?

Times have moved on and in many ways for the better, but where we once had the USSR, now we have a potent China providing a viable alternative to Washington's way.

There's one popular explanation for the origin of the word 'gringo', used across Latin America in reference to, strictly speaking, US citizens but at times Westerners in general.

It goes that it's a Spanish phonetic amalgamation of 'green go', which was uttered to green-clad US soldiers stationed across the region, letting them know that they weren't welcome.

Of course, the United States didn't go, and hasn't gone, meekly away, as some in these parts might wish it had. Indeed, depending on who you listen to, Washington's influence here has either been largely positive or largely negative. The truth, as tends to be the case in such matters, probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Its dominance in the region hasn't always been smooth. Latin America was one of the key battlegrounds during the Cold War, and US fear of losing ground to the Soviets saw a succession of administrations implement questionable policies towards their southern neighbours.

Times have moved on and in many ways for the better, but where we once had the USSR, now we have a potent China providing a viable alternative to Washington's way.

The Asian superpower has been stepping up its dealings with Latin America in recent years, especially in economic terms.
In fact, it has already become the largest trading partner with several countries in the region, and in Brazil it has another powerful BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) economy with which to do business.

In finance terms, the Chinese spearheaded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has the potential to become a functioning counterpoint to the Washington Consensus model.

Military wise, it's unlikely that China will achieve the same sort of influence as the United States, not for the foreseeable future anyway. It is, nonetheless, growing its share of the Latin American arms market, where it sells missiles, ground vehicles, small arms and small naval vessels, to name but a few.

Apart from the obvious financial boost from such deals, it also gives Chinese military what you could call a subtle presence in terms of sending trainers, engineers and advisors to recipient states.

So what does all this increased Chinese-Latin American activity mean? It might spell alarm for some in the United States, but it need not to. For one, alongside the obvious stronger geographical ties, the cultural and business links between North and South America are solid and longstanding, even allowing for the anti-US political rhetoric that emanates from some countries.

What's more, that China is pumping money into the region can be seen as a universally good thing. A stronger, more developed Latin America serves not only US interests well, but the globe in general.

For now, the biggest danger could be United States overreaction to what some observers there might see as a dark shadow moving into its ‘sphere’; a throwback to the Cold War.

Yet learning from that superpower hostility of the last century, the ‘gringos’ shouldn’t make misjudged, rushed decisions. They also should be confident enough to know that they won’t be forced out of Latin America any time soon. It’s ‘green stay’ for now.

LatinAmerican Post |

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