China backed Infrastructure in the Global South: Lessons from the Case of the Brazil Peru Transcontinental Railway Project
Dourado, L. (2022). Working Paper N° 2. Center for China and Asia-Pacific Studies, Universidad del Pacífico. https://cechap.up.edu.pe/wp-content/uploads/Working-Paper-Nro2-Leolino-Dourado.pdf
In the past decade, infrastructure has become a key area of cooperation between China and the Global South. Among the cooperation initiatives, numerous cases have experienced shortcomings or have failed. Notwithstanding some efforts, the reasons why still need to be better understood. To contribute to further illuminating this issue, the present study examines approximately two thousand pages of previously undisclosed official documents of one of the most ambitious projects China has ever been involved in, namely, the Brazil-Peru Transcontinental Railway project. The main events of this case are reconstructed to explain why the Brazil-China-Peru cooperation failed to achieve its objective of producing a basic feasibility study acceptable to these three countries. It finds that the main causes were: 1) the clash between China’s interest in promoting their technical standards and the Brazilian requirement to use local standards; 2) the unwillingness of the Chinese side to make corrections combined with the use of poor quality standards for the development of the basic feasibility study; and 3) Peruvian politics and the decision to not fulfill its commitment to analyzing the final report of the study. Therefore, this case study draws attention to the roles played by clash of interests, lack of accountability, and commitment.