Southern In(ter)dependency? The Impact of Chinese Investments on Development in Colombia

Clara Baumann

For decades, global “Northern” economies have expanded their production chains to the global “South” and benefitted from its cheap primary resources and surplus labor. Thereby, their target countries were hindered from enhancing their economic development and remained locked in a state of dependency. While economic and political elites partially benefitted from their cooperation with foreign enterprises, these dynamics strongly enhanced social inequalities among target-country populations. It is only since the 2000s that the emergence of new competitors from the global South – and especially China – has called these traditional paradigms into question. While the existing literature conceptualizes these investors as new “core” countries that reinforce traditional dynamics of dependency, this project sets out to explore potentially new patterns and particularities of South–South investment. It studies whether, and to what extent, the country-of-origin policies of investors from different parts of the world differ in their impact on target-country development. Specifically, it investigates how far the current shift from North–South to South–South investment enables target-country labor to gain a voice. Guided by a qualitative approach and elements of grounded theory, it compares the crucial cases of US-led and Chinese multinational companies in Colombia. Project duration: October 2020 to March 2024.

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