Thesis Title

The Dragon in the Backyard: Chinese Strategy in Latin America

Date of Graduation

Spring 2005


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Bradley Thayer


This thesis examines how the withdrawal of U.S. influence from Latin America has created a power vacuum that is being filled by the Chinese and the strategic ramifications this will have on the security of the United States. In order for the United States to maintain its position as the world’s only superpower it must prevent the rise of a peer competitor. This requires a vigilant global strategy that incorporates preventative and preemptive action wherever U.S. vital interests are threatened. The United States has not adopted such a strategy to defend its interests in Latin America, and the People’s Republic of China has filled that vacuum. If this trend continues, the power of the United States’ strategic competitors will increase at the expense of American hegemony. By adopting an opportunistic global strategy that utilizes preventative action, China is positioning itself to benefit the most from America’s loss of power. China’s strategic gains in Latin America coincide with U.S. disengagement from the region. Beijing has acquired considerable control over the operations of the Panama Canal and obtained intelligence gathering facilities in Cuba. By establishing close relations with Venezuela, China has secured access to much needed petroleum resources. China’s prudent diplomatic balancing act towards the Marxist guerrillas and the Colombian government has provided multiple ways for it to benefit from the instability in the region. The United States influence in Latin America could have tremendous impact on its ability to maintain its hegemony.


China, Colombia, Cuba, Panama, Venezuela

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Stephen B. Smith