Is China the Leader of the Global South?

Image of G77 China Representative UNIDO / CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED

China is positioned, both in its own view, and that of many others, as the de facto leader of the Global South, despite varied and evolving views of China across much of the globe. China maintains this status even as other large developing countries and much of the Global North aim to compete with Beijing in the developing world, bringing either economic or values-based propositions to bear.

As it stands, no other Global South country (and few in the Global North) compares to China in terms of economic and diplomatic outreach in developing regions—the product of decades of intensive Belt and Road-related and other engagement. China’s economic activity is evident in every corner of the globe, and with governments of all political leanings, including among Taiwan’s diplomatic allies. In the Latin American region, China has quickly established itself as the top export destination for South America—and now as a would-be economic ally for the five countries in Central America and the Caribbean that have cut ties with Taiwan since 2017.

Moreover, China’s activity in the Global South, whether carried out by Chinese companies, government bodies, or party organizations, extends even to the most local of administrative levels. This includes expansive and sometimes decades-long engagement in small towns in Latin America, Africa, and elsewhere, in pursuit of various types of project development. China’s fifteen year-long outreach in the Coquimbo region of Chile has yet to produce notable commercial or economic outcomes, but China’s diplomatic, commercial, educational, and provincial representatives continue to engage there in pursuit of strategic infrastructure and mining deals.





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