China’s rising share of South American trade since 2001 has made that country’s growth a matter of huge importance for the continent’s economies. This study sets out to analyse the spillover effect of China’s growth on that of the leading South American economies (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia) between 1981 and 2014. It analyses whether the increase in China’s share of these countries’ trade since 2001 has altered that effect. The findings suggest that, while positive, it has remained substantially unchanged. The main conclusion from these results is that expanding exports from traditional sectors of the South American economies (commodities) is not enough for earnings to increase with China’s growth. The article emphasizes the importance of public policies designed to diversify South America’s portfolio of exports to China, such as incentives for exporting by non-traditional sectors.