China might join Peru and Bolivia in building an intercontinental railway across Latin America, Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra told Reuters.
Peru and Bolivia “need a third partner to help turn it into reality,” Vizcarra said. Asked if China would be a good fit for the role, he said, “Yes, of course, because we need a partner that benefits from the project.” China would benefit, he said, because it is among the largest buyers of commodities that the railway would transport from Bolivia and other countries in the region to Peru’s Pacific coast.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Latin America in 2013 and discussed the idea of a coast-to-coast railway. The planned line, called the Central Bi-Oceanic Railway, would stretch some 2,330 miles from Peru’s Pacific coast through landlocked Bolivia across Brazil to the Atlantic Ocean.
Proponents said it would overhaul Latin America’s trade and political landscape, and European nations have also expressed interest in helping build it. Because of the project’s scope and expected economic benefits, it was nicknamed “the Panama Canal on Railway Tracks.”
After studying the plan, Peruvian officials said the $60 billion price tag that China put on the project ($35 billion of which Peru would pay) was too high. “With that money,” Vizaccara said in September 2016, “we could build a lot of projects to benefit Peruvians.”
But last month, Peru signed onto the Belt and Road Initiative, a globe-girdling Chinese infrastructure project designed to better connect the world’s economy to China.
Now Peru appears eager to get the railway project on track, likely within the Belt and Road framework.
This is only the latest indication of China’s deepening influence in Latin America. China is now the number one trade partner not just for Peru, but also for Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. China’s trade with Latin American nations has soared from just $10 billion in 2000 up to $306 billion last year.
As more Latin American nations sign on to the Belt and Road Initiative, this volume is expected to significantly increase. And a survey by the cadem polling company last month showed that people in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela now have a more favourable view of China than of the United States.