Human Rights and
International Democratic Solidarity

Research Reports

International Relations and Human Rights Observatory

February 12, 2021

The art of making friends. How the Chinese Communist Party seduces political parties in Latin America

In order to persuade the political class, the CCPleaders have been especially adept at adoptingattractive positions both on the left and on theright of the ideological arc, thereby building theirinfluence in the region without much resistance.50All of this occurs in a context of political parties’crisis of representation and loss of relevance inLatin America, where the so-called new politics isincreasingly linked to specific actors and individuals rather than to party platforms. In the midstof political corruption and growing dissatisfactionwith democracy, the ghost of caudillo politicalleaders in Latin America looms. Hence, there isan environment of confusion in which Chinesediplomacy moves like a fish in water
By Juan Pablo Cardenal
Flavio-Cancemi JUAN PABLO CARDENAL Spanish journalist and researcher specializing in the internationalization of China. He is the co-author of three books on the topic published between 2011 and 2015, works that have been translated into twelve languages, among other books and chapters. He is an associate researcher at the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL). He is also the author of several studies on China and Russia’s sharp power in Latin America.

He was a correspondent in China for a decade. He is currently researching the effects of China’s political and economic presence in Latin America, its propaganda and disinformation campaigns as well as its global influence. He gives conferences and seminars, in addition to publishing articles on this subject in some of the main international newspapers. His latest book is La telaraña: la trama exterior del procés [The spider web: the foreign plot of the procés], published in 2020, which addresses the political crisis in Catalonia.


The art of making friends
1 -  The Chinese Communist Party deploys its diplomacy 4
2 -  Cultivating influence to legitimize the CCP 6
3 -  Objective: to support China’s foreign policy 8
4 -  The temptation of the elites: An effective development model without democracy 10
5 -  The International Department: At the front of the CCP’s diplomacy 11
6 -  Friendship associations, the other pillar of influence operations 13
7 -  By way of conclusion: The mission to decipher China 15
Annex. Meetings of the Chinese Communist Party with political parties in Latin America – 2002 to 2020  16
Juan Pablo Cardenal
Juan Pablo Cardenal
Periodista y escritor. Entre 2003 y 2014 fue corresponsal en China de sendos diarios españoles, especializándose desde 2009 en la expansión internacional del gigante asiático. Desde entonces ha investigado dicho fenómeno en 40 países de 4 continentes al objeto de entender las consecuencias de las inversiones, infraestructuras y préstamos chinos en los países receptores. De dicha investigación han resultado tres libros, de los que es co-autor con otro periodista, entre ellos “La silenciosa conquista china” (Crítica, 2011) y “La imparable conquista china” (Crítica, 2015), traducidos a 12 idiomas. Desde 2016 ha dirigido proyectos de investigación para entender el poder blando chino y la estrategia de Pekín para ganar en influencia política en América Latina, lo que resultó en la publicación de varios informes. Ha impartido también conferencias en distintas instituciones internacionales y ha publicado capítulos sobre China en libros que abordan dichas temáticas, además de haber contribuido con sus análisis y artículos en El País, El Mundo, Clarín, The New York Times, Project Syndicate y el South China Morning Post, entre otros. Su última obra es “La Telaraña” (Ariel, 2020), que aborda la trama internacional de la crisis política en Cataluña.