A Dragon in Latin Lands

This work is a graphical review of Alfredo Toro Hardy’s new book “The World Turned Upside Down: The Complex Partnership Between China and Latin America” (World Scientific Publishing, Singapore, 2013)

This book examines the emergence of China and the decline of the West followed by an analysis of the so-called decoupling process. Visual Assessment’s work focused on the later. In particular, by using economic data extracted from World Bank and United Nation official statistics, this visualization is a comprehensive representation of the growing and complex relationship between China and Latin America.

Over the past decade, much attention has been focused on the rise of China, and more recently increasing emphasis has also been placed on the significant economic growth shown by other emergent economies. However, very little attention has been paid to the relationship between these emerging economies, and especially the one between China and Latin America. Toro Hardy’s new book includes a thorough explanation of the origins and perspectives of this relationship between China and Latin America, and the above-presented graphical book review focused on it.

During and after the 2007-2008 financial crisis, emerging economies not only expanded and deepened their relationship, they also reduced their dependency on the United States and Europe. This phenomenon has been defined as decoupling and a good example of this process is the trade expansion between China and other emergent economies. As explained in one of the book’s chapters, “A Dragon in Latin Lands”, China’s trade with Latin America is growing at nearly twice the level of such regions as the United States, and this visualization illustrates this expansion in a selected group of Latin American countries.

This big transformation is being told through this visualization, where each pair of squares represents the size of the international trade of one country with the world and with the main trade partners outside the region (i.e., China and the United States) for the years 2000 and 2010. The smaller pairs of squares show the share of trade with the mentioned extra-regional partners, illustrating the clearly growing importance of China as a trade partner. This work also includes the top-traded commodities of each of the selected countries for each of the years considered. Furthermore, it provides each country’s GDP growth rate and export growth rate in relation to those of China and other emergent economies. Finally, it shows each country’s size in terms of population and surface area. All this information not only allows a comparison between countries, it also reveals some of the impacts that the Dragon has had in Latin lands. Until now the outcome of this China-Latin America economic relationship has been mixed, entailing benefits as well as costs, winners as well as losers. This relation has so far been mainly based on China’s need for resources to sustain its economic expansion. Yet, the current expansive cycle for Latin American commodities will eventually reach a ceiling. China will reach a ceiling too in terms of its industrialization and infrastructural development, but there will still be a gigantic population that needs to be fed. So, Latin America would require increasing the exportable offer as well as the value added of their commodities in order to reduce vulnerabilities. Toro Hardy’s book, in fact, finishes by presenting these and more insights on the future of Latin America in the context of its partnership with China.