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China is pursuing a dramatic increase in trade and investment in Latin America. Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers and regional experts are calling on President Joe Biden to reverse what they describe as years of U.S. underinvestment in and inattention to Latin America that they say has harmed U.S. interests. Adm. Craig S. Faller, who will retire later this year as head of U.S. Southern Command, has a keen sense of the security risks and opportunities posed by China’s growing influence and activity in the Western Hemisphere. Faller has been visiting with Caribbean leaders this week and agreed to share some observations with China Watcher about his three years monitoring the region. His answers have been edited for clarity and length.
In your 2021 Southern Command Posture Statement issued in March, you provided substantial detail about your assessment of the PRC’s threats — economic, diplomatic and military — to U.S. interests in the region. Five months later, how has your assessment evolved?
I feel an even greater sense of urgency about the PRC’s activities in the Western Hemisphere. PRC influence in the region is growing, from IT infrastructure to space assets … cultural centers, and Covid assistance.