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Social media platform WeChat and many others in China are tightly controlled, and when it comes to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, they all follow the official line. Photo: iStock

As the age of US dominant influence in Latin America recedes further into the past, new reporting this week sheds light on how China’s role in the region is taking shape.

Chinese foreign direct investment into Latin America has gone through the roof over the past 10 years, with an increasing focus on telecommunications, and the region, in turn, is looking to China as an example for its own future.

That is the story told by some Latin American entrepreneurs who see America’s influence diminishing.

“China’s influence has been very important. Latin America is more similar to China than to the US,” Felipe Henriquez, the Chilean co-founder of an online group buying website, was quoted as saying in an article by Bloomberg on Tuesday.

“When you go to China, you see what’s going to happen in Latin America in five more years. Today, we look at China. We look at Meituan, at Alibaba and Tencent, to see what we can do in the future.”

According to a recent report from the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Chinese companies invested some US$18 billion in Latin America in 2017, more than from any other country.

“Right now, we’re at the inflection point,” Nathan Lustig, a partner at Magma Partners who helped launch a China-Latin America accelerator last year, was quoted as saying. “There’s a massive trend of copying from China because they solved the same problems ten years ago Latin America is dealing with today: the unbanked, no-credit scores, no phone-to-suddenly having smartphones.”

China’s decades-old relationships in the region have matured, others said, making the time ripe for startups to tap into the experience of innovation in a developing market.

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