What does Bolsonaro's presidency mean for China-Brazil relations?
The man dubbed as “Brazil's Trump” is now the Latin American country's president-elect. When he assumes office on January 1, 2019, Bolsonaro will inherit a polarized Brazil with an underperforming economy.
Bolsonaro has repeatedly warned about Beijing's growing influence on the country. He has used slogans such as “Brazil before everything, God above all,” echoing US President Donald Trump's “America First” rhetoric. Should Beijing be nervous about threats to China-Brazil trade relations when Bolsonaro takes office next year?
Xu Qinduo, a senior fellow at the Pangoal Institution, thinks Bolsonaro's China-bashing comments are just campaign rhetoric, which might not be practiced when he takes office and acknowledges the reality.
“He presented himself as a nationalist, basically for nationalists, one thing you want to do is to blame your problems on foreigners,” explained Xu. “China here is the easy target.”
Li Hui, an assistant research fellow on Latin American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, also pointed out that Brazil has big trade dependence on many countries including China. As Brazil's largest trading partner in the recent year, China has imported soybean, coffee bean, raw sugar, and mineral products, as well as value-added commodities such as airplanes and vehicles.
“In some kinds of production, such as Brazil's main agricultural produces like soybean and raw sugar, the US doesn't need to import because it has its own production,” stated Li. “We can say they're competitors.”
Prof. Evandro Carvalho from Getulio Vargas Foundation's Law School expressed his concerns on the uncertainty of Bolsonaro's foreign policy, especially on China.
“We really don't know what will be the foreign policy of Bolsonaro's government towards China,” said Prof. Carvalho. “But I think probably Bolsonaro has to change a little bit of his attitude and his discourse considering China is a very important partner to Brazil.”
Prof. Carvalho added that the BRICS summit in Brazil next year will be Bolsonaro's first important international event. At that time, we will be able to see if he considers BRICS as an important platform to the Brazilian foreign policy.
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