Are Peruvians Enticed by the “China Model”? Chinese Investment and Public Opinion in Peru

Abstract: China’s economic involvement in Latin America has increased dramatically in the twenty-first century, often due to China’s demand for natural resources. Chinese President Xi Jinping and his government have actively courted Latin America to pave the way for economic interactions. Chinese leaders have been working to foster China’s “soft power” abroad. Nonetheless, we know relatively little about how Latin Americans perceive China and how Latin Americans’ experiences with Chinese firms over the past two decades have shaped their views. Have Chinese efforts at cultivating “soft power” worked? Or have the actions of Chinese mining firms damaged China’s reputation? Using the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) coupled with data on Chinese investments in Peru, I examine Peruvians’ views of China and whether Peruvians think China should be a model for their country. I find that while Peruvians generally trust the Chinese government, only a small proportion prefers China as a model for Peru. The relationship between Chinese investment and public opinion is mixed. However, Peruvians who strongly value democracy are less likely to prefer China as a model for their country. The data also suggest that China still has an opportunity to shape public opinion in Peru, despite conflicts with Peruvian communities over mining projects.