China to invest $250bn in Latin America over 10 years
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro at the China-Celac Forum in Beijing on 8 January.Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged $250bn in investments in Latin America over the next decade in a bid to boost Beijing's influence in a region long dominated by the US.

Xi, speaking at the opening ceremony of the first ministerial meeting of the China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) Forum, said bilateral trade between China and Latin America was estimated to rise to $500bn (£331bn, €422bn) within the next 10 years.

Xi said China and Latin America are cooperating in the areas of energy, infrastructure construction, agriculture, manufacturing and technological innovation.

China is interested in the region for resources and markets, Deng Yuwen, a Beijing-based political analyst and former deputy editor of the Central Party School's journal, Study Times, told Reuters.

Taiwan dilemma

However, cooperation with the region comes as several Celac members continue to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which China regards as a renegade province.

Of the 22 states that still recognise Taiwan, 12 are in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Xi said on 8 January in Beijing: "I believe that this meeting will achieve fruitful results, give the world a positive signal about deepening cooperation between China and Latin America and have an important and far-reaching impact on promoting South-South cooperation and prosperity for the world."

Deng said: "Obviously, China has the intention to compete with the US. for a greater sphere of influence in the region. But whether this strategy will weaken US influence now is hard to judge."

Earlier, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he had secured over $20bn in investment from China, while Ecuador said it obtained a total of $7.53bn in credit lines and loans from China.

Maduro said on 7 January: "To repeat what [former] President Hugo Chavez said, China is demonstrating to the world that a country does not necessarily seek hegemony as it grows stronger."

The world's second-largest economy buys oil from Venezuela, copper from Peru and Chile, and soybean from Argentina and Brazil.

Celac is a bloc of 33 countries that excludes the US and Canada.