Brazil's Lula visits China in pursuit of ties and support for Ukraine

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva gestures during a breakfast with accredited journalists at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia on January 12, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Tuesday, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva flew to China to reinforce ties with his country's largest trading partner and garner support for his improbable peace initiative in Ukraine.

Lula wants Brazil, China, and other nations to help mediate the war as part of his nation's return to the international arena. However, his proposals to end the conflict have angered Ukraine and some in the West.

After a difficult period under Lula's predecessor, the mutual interest of Brazil and China in trade is less controversial.

According to the Brazilian government, during Lula's two-day visit, China and Brazil are expected to sign at least 20 bilateral agreements.

On Friday, Lula will travel to Shanghai and Beijing and confer with his counterpart, Xi Jinping.

According to the Brazilian government, the two leaders are expected to discuss trade, investment, reindustrialization, energy transition, climate change, and peace agreements.

China is Brazil's largest export market, purchasing tens of billions of dollars of soybeans, cattle, iron ore, poultry, pulp, sugar cane, cotton, and crude oil each year. According to Chinese state media, Brazil receives the largest Chinese investment in Latin America.

During his term from 2019 to 2022, former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his family members occasionally caused friction with Chinese authorities.

In 2020, when Bolsonaro's son Eduardo, a lawmaker, blamed the Chinese Communist Party for the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese ambassador to Brazil termed his remarks "a vile insult against China and the Chinese people."

Later that year, Eduardo referred to the Chinese technology giant Huawei as "Chinese espionage," eliciting a stern reprimand from the Chinese embassy. Eight months ago, China did not have an ambassador in Brasilia.

Even sectors that supported Bolsonaro, such as the agribusiness industry, were critical of the schism.

"I want the Chinese to realize that their investment will be warmly welcomed in this country, but not to purchase our companies. To construct new objects, which we require," Lula told journalists on April 6 in Brasilia.

Chinese corporations are involved in public works projects in Brazil, including constructing a metro line in the country's business capital, Sao Paulo. One of the agreements that Lula will sign in China is for the sixth satellite made under a binational program. This satellite would monitor biomes such as the Amazon rainforest.

"Brazil cannot afford to ignore the benefits China provides. According to Pedro Brites, an expert on China at the Getulio Vargas, the United States does not have the same capacity to absorb Brazil's exports as China, nor does it occupy the same territory in terms of investment and infrastructure Foundation in Sao Paulo.

And China is encouraging its businesses to discover new markets and foreign partners to reduce their reliance on the United States.

"Lula is aware of the need to handle clients with respect. Even more so when they are your greatest customer, said Charles Tang, president of the Brazil-China Chamber of Commerce.

China lifted restrictions on Brazilian beef just before Lula was initially scheduled to arrive, a move that Tang implied resulted from a renewed partnership. In February, sales of Brazilian beef to China were prohibited due to the discovery of an atypical case of mad cow disease.

Lula's visit to China, initially scheduled for March but postponed due to illness, is also an attempt by the leftist leader to reaffirm Brazil's role on the international stage following Bolsonaro's term, who admired right-wing nationalists and displayed little interest in international affairs or travel abroad.

According to experts, Lula's visits to Argentina and Uruguay in January and the United States in February demonstrate the significance he places on international affairs. During his first presidency, he visited dozens of countries, particularly during his second term, and he has previously visited China twice.

Oliver Stuenkel, a political scientist at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, stated, "Lula is implementing the promise he made that Brazil is back."

China and Brazil are members of the BRICS group of developing nations, and they have advocated for changes to a system they claim is dominated by the United States.

Russia is also a BRICS member, and Lula's proposal for Brazil and other developing nations, including China, to mediate peace is a critical component of his international outreach.

Lula has angered Ukraine and some in the West with his stance on the conflict, most recently by suggesting, in a meeting with journalists in Brasilia last week, that Ukraine should cede Crimea to achieve peace.

Last month, Xi met with Putin, signalling to U.S. and European leaders that their condemnation of Russia's invasion is not unanimous.

A Lula adviser, former foreign affairs minister Celso Amorim, travelled discreetly to Moscow earlier this month, where he met with Vladimir Putin.

On April 5, Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira told reporters in Brasilia that Amorim "went to listen and to signal that the time has come to talk."

At least some common ground exists. Vieira noted that the Chinese peace proposal presented in February shares similarities with Lula's, including the cessation of hostilities and the commencement of negotiations.

"These are entirely plausible and may stimulate discussion," he said.

Publish : 2023-04-12 13:18:00

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