Chinese Engagement in Infrastructure Development in the Amazon: Recommendations for Better Environmental Outcomes

Authors: Amy Rosenthal*, The Field Museum
Topics: Environment, Development, Latin America
Keywords: China, Amazon, decision science, infrastructure
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Roosevelt 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In less than two decades, China has become South America’s leading trading partner, and China’s policy banks are the number one provider of development finance for Latin America as a whole. In the Amazon, Chinese companies, often backed by policy bank finance, have developed hydroelectric projects in Ecuador, electricity transmission investments in Brazil, and a handful of road, rail, and port development ventures in Colombia and Peru, among other initiatives. These infrastructure projects promise significant economic benefits and integration for Amazon basin countries, but they also pose serious environmental and social risks to a region that provides a globally important store of climate-stabilizing carbon and the greatest terrestrial biodiversity on the planet. We undertook a year-long study of Chinese-funded infrastructure development in the Amazon, drawing on a set of case studies in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. We used a novel method of “decision process diagrams” to analyze these cases, identifying key points of entry, levers of change, and actors to target to influence environmental outcomes. This presentation describes our methods and shares the recommendations that resulted from the process for maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risks of Chinese-funded infrastructure in the Amazon.

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