China grows in LatAm

China has surpassed the U.S. not only as the world's largest auto market, but also as the top trading partner of commodity-rich Brazil. I was most struck by this anecdote illustrating how China's cultural clout is growing in parallel:
Aiping Yuan came to Rio de Janeiro from Beijing in 1997 on a lark, fell in love with the city and decided to stay. She studied Portuguese, and when Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva made his first visit to China in 2004, she opened a small school in Rio to teach Mandarin.

She began with six students and today has 300, including senior executives at Petrobras, the country's biggest oil company, and Vale do Rio Doce, the biggest mineral producer [emphasis mine]. Both have growing business with China.

"Chinese is the language of the future for Brazil," Yuan said with a big smile.
China is also pursuing Argentine energy assets while Western majors sit on the sidelines. Some allege China is pursuing "short-term goals", but seems to me it's actually being more far-sighted than the vaunted Western energy giants in aggressively buying scarce resources at attractive prices during the economic downturn.

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