The Chinese government intends to provide a loan of $1 billion to countries in South America and Caribbean in order to help the region get sufficient Coronavirus vaccines, the Foreign Ministry of Mexico said in an official statement.
The promise by the government of the Communist nation was made through its foreign minister Wang Yi while he addressed a virtual meeting with his counterparts from the same region. Apart from foreign ministers of China and Mexico, the meeting had representatives of Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, among other nations.
"China's Foreign Minister said that the vaccine developed in his country will be a public benefit of universal access, and that his country will designate a loan of $1 billion to support access (to it) for the nations of the region," the Mexican foreign ministry's statement read.
The announcement from the Chinese side also prompted the President of Mexico AndrÃ©s Manuel LÃ³pez Obrador to praise China for its actions.
"We're very grateful to China...the Chinese government, the President, (with whom) you remember I had the chance to speak on the phone. We asked him for support with medical equipment (and) there have been many aid flights coming from China," the President stated and added, "There's always been enough equipment supply, medicines, and now there is this offer."
While on surface this seems like a laudable gesture on the part of the Chinese government, it has larger ramifications. Chinese diplomacy in recent years has been directed towards using its money power to increase its influence across the world. Africa is one example where the Chinese have used financial levers to establish a firm footing and earn the loyalty of various countries.
The Belt and Road initiative is also regarded as a means of increasing the dependency of nations in Asia on itself. Already, the Sri Lankan government has been forced to least out Hambantota port, developed by China, to the same country for a 99-year period after the island nation's government couldn't meet its financial obligations.
Pakistan has been greatly dependent on its eastern neighbour for decades and some experts even describe it as an unofficial 'client state' of China. Other countries like Nepal and Afghanistan too are warming up to the Chinese regime.
With its footing firmly established in Asia and Africa, it seems Latin America is the new frontier for the Xi Jinping-led country. This is going to create concerns among Americans. The relations of many of these nations have been strained with USA owing its interventionist past and recent utterances by President Donald Trump.
With the decline of Soviet Union in 1990s, the threat from countries like Cuba receded into the background. However, if China now steps up to fill the vacuum left by the Soviet regime, the Americans will be looking nervously to the south of its borders.
It has to be remembered that the survival of Nicolas Maduro's regime in Venezuela since last year, despite crippling sanctions, is also attributed by some to Chinese support to the regime. This loan could be a harbinger of things to come.