Film shows China’s rising influence in South America
Published: Friday, May 25, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
A cow falls from the sky in the opening shot of “Un cuento chino,” or “Chinese Take-out,” in this year’s Chicago Latino Film Festival, and it’s raising some unexpected questions, like what does China have to do with Buenos Aires?
When you envision countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile, the Chinese are not the first people you think of. Yet Sebastián Borensztein, the director of the comedy, is making light of today’s reality, a reality that is becoming more prevalent in places such as Buenos Aires, the location for ‘Un cuento chino.’
The film is about Roberto and Jun. Roberto is an unpleasant hardware store owner who witnesses Jun, a Chinese man, being thrown out of a cab. Reluctantly, Roberto allows Jun to live in his house until he can figure out who he is and what he should do with him.
Like Roberto, perhaps many of us are confused as to why China is making such a huge impact on South Americans. Unbeknownst to many, China has been building an economic stronghold in South America.
With cheap labor, U.S. debt and outsourcing initiatives and a strong communist underpinning for the last couple of decades, China is steadily establishing an economic presence in a majority of South American affairs.
“China is hungry. It is hungry for trade and for all of the opportunities the U.S. has been unable to act on,” said Marlene Ariza, 21, a DePaul finance student, who attended the festival’s closing night showing of the film.
China has provided Argentina with more than $10 billion in Chinese currency and is about to double a development fund in Venezuela from $6 to $12 billion.
China has also invested $1 billion in Ecuador to build a hydroelectric plant and loaned Brazil’s national oil company $10 billion as the U.S. market share in Brazil has declined in the past five years.
“Other countries are benefiting from the lack of U.S. presence and China is taking over,” said Ignacio Vargas, 37, who also attended the filming.
China’s trade with South America has grown quickly this decade, making it the second largest trading partner after the U.S. After waging a ten-year war in the Middle East, contributing to worldwide economic turmoil and now undergoing a presidential election in which our biggest concern is whether or not President Obama has at one point eaten dog meat, it seems like the concerns of the U.S. are elsewhere.
“It’s weird to think about it, but it makes sense. If America isn’t there, why shouldn’t they look (for investments) elsewhere?” said interactive media student Jackie Herrera, 20.
Although it seems like an unlikely combination, the new ensemble also creates a future without all of the baggage the U.S. and South America have carried for centuries.
In one famous incident, Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, called former President Bush “the devil” and has openly blamed the U.S. for giving him cancer. He even blamed the U.S. for the 2010 Haitian earthquake, stating its weapons test as the cause of about 230,000 lives lost.
Although the film is a lighthearted take on an unlikely relationship, it is evidence of a larger movement that is taking place. Although it is not necessarily Chinese world domination, it is still something we are used to. Perhaps it foretells a shift in power, or perhaps a coincidental fluke like cows falling from the sky. Whatever will happen, it will be fascinating nonetheless.