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 2000 pages of previously undisclosed documents of one of the most ambitious projects China has 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 Chinese and Brazilian interests; (2) the use of poor quality standards for the development of the basic feasibility study; and (3) the Peruvian abandonment of the initiative. Therefore, this case study draws attention to the importance of accounting for and trying to conciliate all partners’ interests; it also suggests that relevant Chinese actors may need to improve their planning and feasibility studies quality standards; and, finally, it highlights the consequential role of institutional and technical capacity in host countries.
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© 2022 Global South Ltd.
This work was supported by the Centre for China and Asia-Pacific Studies at Universidad del Pacífico in the framework of the initiative Build–China in the Global South. The author thanks Professor Guo Jie (School of International Studies, Pekin University) for her valuable guidance and comments, and Darissa Cama (student at Universidad del Pacífico) for her research assistance. He also expresses his gratitude and appreciation to the anonymous interviewees for their insights and to the reviewers for their highly helpful comments and suggestions.