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Tillerson deplanes after arriving in Bariloche, Argentina. Photo: DAVE CLARK/AFP/Getty Images

Ahead of his visit this week to South America, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been warning about the rising influence of China and Russia in the region. "Latin America doesn't need new imperial powers that seek only to benefit their own people,” he said last week.

The big picture: China is now the top trading partner of Brazil, the region’s largest economy, as well as Argentina and Peru, the two South American stops on Tillerson’s trip. Last month in Chile, Tillerson’s Chinese counterpart announced further plans to invest in Latin America, as part of China’s massive Belt and Road initiative.

The two sides
  • Tillerson’s case: He said before departing Texas for Mexico last week that China “offers the appearance of an attractive path to development,” but that comes with the price of “long-term dependency” on a country that doesn’t share the “fundamental values” of the region. The U.S., he argued, seeks not profits but partnership.
  • The Chinese counter-argument, from an op-ed in the Communist Party-linked Global Times: "China is merely doing business with Latin America and all the trade ties are based on the countries' free will and for mutual benefit ... However, the U.S. has long seen Latin America as its backyard,” it said, per CNBC.
    • China Daily, meanwhile, accused the U.S. of maintaining Cold War “paranoia” while “the rest of the world has moved on.”

The Trump factor: Approval of President Trump in Argentina, where Tillerson spoke Monday, sits at 11%, down from 55% under Barack Obama, according to Gallup.

Analysis
  • Ted Picccone, Brookings: “For now, China’s rise has not unduly harmed core U.S. national security interests in the Western Hemisphere, but it has challenged U.S. influence and warrants continued attention.”

The latest: Tillerson was asked about his China comments on Monday in Argentina, and said the issue hadn't come up in his meeting with the country’s foreign minister.

Go deeper: Stephen Kaplan of the Wilson Center analyzes the spike in Chinese investment in Latin America, writing in the Washington Post.

Go deeper

Nikolas Cruz pleads guilty to Parkland school shooting

Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz at the defense table during jury selection at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Oct. 6, 2021. Photo: Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Nikolas Cruz on Wednesday pleaded guilty on all counts for carrying out the 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 people dead, including 14 students and three staff members.

Driving the news: Cruz, 23, pleaded guilty at a hearing on Wednesday to 17 murder counts and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder for carrying out the deadly shooting.

2 hours ago - Health

White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11

Charles Muro, 13, is inoculated at Hartford Healthcare's mass vaccination center at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Conn. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released its plan to vaccinate children between the ages of five and 11, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration of the first COVID-19 shot for that age group.

The big picture: The White House said it has secured enough vaccine supply to equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of school and community health clinics, as well as tens of thousands of pharmacies, to administer the shots.

2 hours ago - Sports

Where it stands: Weed policies by U.S. sports league

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With public support for marijuana legalization nearing unanimity, and more athletes using cannabis to treat pain, the four major U.S. sports leagues continue to reduce restrictions and punishments.

Driving the news: NBA players won't be subject to random marijuana testing this season, an extension of an agreement between the league and its players' union that began ahead of the 2020 Orlando restart.