Updated 08:32 PM EDT, Wed, Oct 20, 2021

Chinese Naval Hospital Makes First Ever Call in South America Indicating the Asian Giant’s Growing Influence in the Region

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A Chinese naval hospital ship is making its first-ever stop in South America as the Asian economic giant's influence continues to expand in the region.

On Monday, the Peace Ark, equipped with 500 beds and 118 medical professionals, docked at a port outside the Peruvian capital of Lima for a service visit that will last for seven days, Yahoo! News reported from the Associated Press. The South American country is the last destination on a three-month mission that had stops in Australia, Barbados, Mexico, Grenada, and the United States.

During its visit in Peru, the ship measuring 229 meters, or 756 feet, will perform 2,000 free medical procedures, Yahoo! News added. The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote that doctors aboard the ship will practice both Western-style medicine and traditional Chinese techniques.

"We're very thankful because during this holiday season they're going to give the gift of health care," Peruvian Health Minister Anibal Velasquez said at a ceremony, which was also attended by China's ambassador to Peru, as quoted by the news outlet.

China's humanitarian mission comes as its demands for Latin America's natural resources rose over the past decade. Earlier this year, the hospital ship USS Comfort made a regional tour that involved 11 nations. Evan Ellis, an expert on China-Latin America relations at the U.S. Army War College in Carlyle, Pennsylvania, said that China's approach was "partially inspired or learned from U.S. actions," Yahoo! News further reported.

In a way, the goodwill visits are proof of China taking advantage, Ellis noted. With the U.S.' interest occupied by unrest in other countries, the Asian nation is gradually building its military influence globally, the news outlet added.

"It's not necessarily nefarious, but one does notice what is happening," Ellis said, as quoted by Yahoo! News. "It impacts the U.S. position as the partner of choice for several Latin American countries."

In July 2014, Livemint reported that China's Peace Ark also docked at the Philippines to help treat thousands of those who were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. The ship was commissioned in 2008 and can handle wartime casualties aside from humanitarian work, according to Du Xin, a lieutenant commander on the ship.

"The Chinese Navy will take part in more rescues," Senior Captain Sun Tao said last year, as quoted in Livemint's report. "Whenever there is a disaster, countries' rescue ability is limited. You need many countries to help them. China will positively take part in international humanitarian rescues."

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