On October 28, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro marked the anniversary of his electoral win far from home. Bolsonaro was in Qatar, finishing a tour that covered China, Japan, and countries in the Middle East. Part of what makes this surprising is that during the 2018 presidential race Bolsonaro struck a chilly tone toward Beijing, saying, “The Chinese are not buying in Brazil. They are buying Brazil.”
What a difference a year makes. During his recent trip, Bolsonaro said that Brazil and China were “born to walk together” and the two governments are “completely aligned in a way that reaches beyond our commercial and business relationship.”
“We’re witnessing the education of Jair Bolsonaro as president in his first year in office,” explains Maurício Santoro, a political scientist in the International Affairs Department of the State University of Rio de Janeiro. “He was the first president of Brazil after the return of democracy to speak about China in a very harsh way.” In this episode of Latin America in Focus, Santoro spoke with AS/COA Online’s Luisa Leme about how the growing importance of Brazil-China ties affects not only Bolsonaro’s appeal to his base, but also issues ranging from Amazon deforestation to Mercosur.
When it comes to investment, Santoro says there is limited consensus in Bolsonaro’s cabinet about the approach to Asia, and regional uncertainty is an underlying hurdle overall. “In Latin America, we still don’t know exactly what we want from our Asian partners,” he says. “There is this huge knowledge gap in Latin America about Asia.”
On the other hand, more than one third of Brazil’s foreign trade happens with Asian countries and 40 percent of exports go to Asia. For Brazil’s agribusiness exports, the number rises to more than half.
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- Listen to Santoro in the first time he participated on the episode, “Brazil's Old Problems in a New Year.”
- Learn about Jair Bolsonaro’s first 100 days in the presidency.
- Check out our tracker of Bolsonaro’s approval ratings.
This episode was produced by Luisa Horwitz. The music in this podcast was performed at Americas Society in New York. Learn more about upcoming concerts at musicoftheamericas.org.