A 21st Century Qhapaq Ñan


Written by Matthew Mendez, Journalist

A 21st Century Qhapaq Ñan

The Spanish conquest of Peru in 1532 saw the near complete destruction of a complex and magnificent network of roads and bridges (Qhapaq Ñan) built by the Inca in little more than a century. However, the great legacy of the Qhapaq Nan may soon be revived in Peru with the help of an unlikely ally – the Chinese.

About a week ago, on the 17th of May, Peruvian president Martin Vizcarra announced his newfound support for the construction of a joint Peru-Bolivia intercontinental railway project that would connect landlocked Bolivia with Peru’s Pacific Coast. Vizcarra, however, acknowledged the need for a third partner to help make the mega project a reality – eventually turning to China for help. However, Peru has not always been so receptive to the construction of a massive transcontinental railway.

President Martín Vizcarra of Peru

Back in September of 2016, China proposed that a railway be built from Brazil to Peru, a project which would help reduce the costs of transporting goods from South America to Asia. Peru though, scoffed at a project of such proportions, as China estimated the railway would cost about $60 billion to construct – $35 billion of which would have to be paid by Peru. In December of 2019 though, Peru managed to lower the cost of the Peruvian portion of the project to about $7.5 billion – a much more palatable number for the developing country.

Now, why has Peru chosen to work with China instead of another Western country with equal, if not superior monetary resources? Well, in 2018, China overtook the U.S. and other Western powers as Peru’s major trade partner, thanks in large part to the Andean nation’s extensive copper supplies. As a major producer of electronic components, China’s growing ties with Peru serve to secure the East Asian giant’s expanding market.

Despite president Vizcarra’s best attempts to remain neutral in foreign affairs, Peru’s newfound amity with China has incited a bit of controversy in the United States, which recently delivered a warning to Latin American nations concerning the strengthening of ties with China. However, Vizcarra has insisted that Peru and Bolivia’s collaboration with China is not meant to create further tensions between the two world powers. Instead, Vizcarra reaffirms that the mega project will ultimately benefit Andean economies and help develop the long neglected region. It is clear though, that through the construction of this modern-day Qhapaq Ñan, China will increase its influence and economic ties to South America – the effects of which are still to come.