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Today I read a GIS SE user opinion in Using Geometry.distance_to() in ArcGIS API for Python that:

it appears that ArcGIS API for Python uses ArcPy internally

This surprised me because I do not think that this is the case.

Does the ArcGIS API for Python use ArcPy internally or are they two independent Python libraries that nevertheless may call some common underlying libraries?

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Yes the ArcGIS API for Python can use the arcpy package if it is available in the current environment. arcpy is not required, but enables some additional functionality if available.

For example:

The distance_to method referred to in the question you linked to requires either arcpy or shapely.

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