About myself

I am a sinologist, art historian, and foreign policy analyst. I graduated in Chinese Studies with Japanese from the University of Durham, UK, and earned my M.A. from SOAS, University of London, whereupon I joined Christie’s as an auctioneer and expert for Chinese porcelain and works of art.  I studied and worked extensively in China over the past two decades, and have co-founded and managed multiple start-up companies and projects. I received my Ph.D. in political studies in 2015 for research on China’s foreign policy towards Latin America, under the supervision of Qin Yaqing (China Foreign Affairs University, Beijing) and Matt Ferchen (Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, Beijing). I brought together fifteen authors for the edited collection China en América Latina: reflexiones sobre las relaciones transpacíficas (Bogota, 2012), and have had articles and chapters published in English, Spanish, Korean and Chinese, most recently “One Actor, Many Agents: China’s Latin America Policy in Theory and Practice”, the opening chapter in The Political Economy of China-Latin American Relations edited by Margaret Myers and Carol Wise, published by Routledge.

I am currently Resident Postdoctoral Fellow on Sino-Latin American-U.S. Affairs with the SAIS Foreign Policy Institute. I am also a Research Fellow of the Mr. & Mrs. S.H. Wong Center for the Study of Multinational Corporations, and a visiting professor at the International School for Economics and Management at the Universidad de la Sabana, Bogota, Colombia. Professional memberships include the International Studies Association, the Association of Asian Studies, the Red ALC-China network, and the Latin American Studies Association.

Research Statement

In my research, I concentrate on political and cultural aspects of China’s relationship with the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, and its strategic relevance to the United States. As a case study in international relations in the 21st century, it illustrates the role a rising global power can play through its multidimensional diplomacy and its foreign policy, as well as the impact of non-state actors, especially corporations. My work is informed by having lived both in China and in Latin America for the greater part of the past two decades, and as a sinologist, historian, and political scientist, I bring a varied toolbox to the analysis of that relationship. Three themes run through my work: (1) the study of Chinese foreign policy towards Latin America, (2) the significance of discourse and meaning in China’s transpacific diplomacy, and (3) the study of theoretical currents emerging in China’s approach to international relations. Together, these themes underpinned my doctoral thesis which I am currently revising for publication in book form[1].

(1)   My work on China’s foreign policy analysis recognizes the gap between policy-making and the impact and reach of such policy. The predominant notion of China as a unitary actor abroad and of there being a coherent policy comprehensively directed from Beijing, is misleading. As such, it is poorly understood abroad and leads to ill-suited responses. Latin American governments have an added problem in there being virtually no linguistic, cultural or policy expertise for engaging with Chinese counterparts and formulating appropriate responses. I first explored the aspects of this phenomenon by coordinating a volume of Spanish-language articles with authors from three continents[2], and elaborated this approach in the opening chapter to the edited book The Political Economy of China-Latin America Relations[3]. By focusing on official documents and policy statements, and subjecting them to close literal and contextual reading, I am contributing to building a more comprehensive picture of China’s motivations, aspirations and practices in the region and the world over[4]. Currently, I am exploring the strategic preparedness of China’s diplomatic corps, and studying principal-agent dynamics in the work of state-owned enterprises, both of which are critical to better gauge and predict bilateral and multilateral engagement. In addition, given the prominence of trade and investment in the transpacific relationships, I have an ongoing project on Chinese Investment Trends in the Pacific Alliance Countries, with a special focus on infrastructure.

(2)  The study of discourse and meaning in transpacific diplomacy is the route to more solid studies of China’s cultural diplomacy, which challenge traditional principles of non-interference. Studies of China’s economic statecraft are helpful, but aspects of principal-agent theory and a constructivist approach to international relations (IR) are needed. Leadership continuity in China contrasts with sweeping changes of political style and international policy approaches in the United States, and such potentially destabilizing tendencies add momentum to my ongoing work on Beijing’s cultural diplomacy and the project Beyond Commerce: China’s impact on values, ideas and politics in Latin America. A linguistic and cultural background in Chinese, Spanish and English allows me to analyze the impact and responses to China in Latin America, and also in the United States, exemplified by work published by the LSE[5] and, more recently, in a journal article on Chinese investment in Peru[6].

(3)  Theoretical currents in China’s international relations are still only sporadically included in mainstream Western academic literature and teaching syllabi. They are, however, indicators of a changing global order and a tentative map to reframing China’s foreign policy interests and prospective role in the international system – the most tangible being the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). More theoretical proposals, on the other hand, such as the concept of relationality in IR and the non-hegemonic Tianxia approach to global governance, are little covered in the English (or Spanish) literature. As one of the editors of the prominent IR website Theory Talks, I have helped introduce the work of several Chinese and other non-Western IR scholars to the firmament[7]. By bringing these ideas to bear on China’s engagement in Latin America, I am testing the Chinese worldview and its global projection. Framed more broadly, therefore, my work on China-Latin America relations is a case study for a better understanding of China’s challenge to the dominant conceptualization of global order.

[1]Creutzfeldt, B. (2015). China's Foreign Policy in Latin America: A Road Paved with Good Intentions. (PhD), Externado University of Colombia, Bogota.  

[2]Creutzfeldt, B. (Ed.) (2012). China en América Latina: Reflexiones sobre las relaciones transpacíficas. Bogota: Universidad Externado de Colombia. link

[3]Creutzfeldt, B. (2016). One Actor, Many Agents: China’s Latin America Policy in Theory and Practice. In M. Myers & C. Wise (Eds.), The Political Economy of China-Latin American Relations (pp. 15-30). New York: Routledge. link

[4]Creutzfeldt, B. (2016). 中国与拉丁美洲关系的转型 [The Transformation of China-Latin American Relations]. 全球政治评论 [Review of Global Politics], Special Issue 3, 53-66. 

[5]Chimienti, A. & B. Creutzfeldt. (2014). Strategies and Counter-strategies: China in the Andean Region of South America. London School of Economics and Political Science, Global South Unit Working Paper. LSE Global South Unit. link

[6]Creutzfeldt, B. (2016). Not All Plain Sailing: Opportunities and pitfalls for Chinese investment in Peru. Asian Perspective (40), 603-626. link

[7] Creutzfeldt, B. (2011). Theory Talk #45: Qin Yaqing on Rules vs Relations, Drinking Coffee and Tea, and a Chinese Approach to Global Governance. Theory Talks. link