As economic and cultural relations between Brazil and China evolve, scholars reflect upon how these ties will be furthered in the near future. Professor Maria Cristina Cacciamali, Dean of the University of São Paulo’s Faculty of Economics, in Brazil, is optimistic when looking at the two nations’ future, particularly because China “has invested in sectors that are important to the Brazilian economy and production channels” in recent years.
Participating in the International Symposium on “Chinese-
Lusophone Relations: China and Brazil,” organized by the Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) and sponsored by the Macau Foundation, the professor focused her talk on the development of the Chinese and Brazilian bilateral relations.
Starting her speech with a controversial question, Professor Maria Cristina Cacciamali asked: “Is the Chinese competition a threat to Brazilian exports?” She is sure that, when it comes to manufacturing industries, the Chinese competition indeed hinders Brazilian exports, particularly in Latin America.
However, the scholar does not see China as a primary threat, stating, “China is not the main problem for the Brazilian manufacturing sector.” Instead, she indicates that technological gaps, lack of infrastructure, high costs of logistics, high domestic taxes, and a poorly skilled labor force, among other factors, are indeed the real threats.
While providing insights on the evolution of Chinese investment in Brazil, the professor recalled that between 1999 and 2009, low-volume investments were focused in electronics, the automotive industry and telecommunications.
Between 2009 and 2012, the Chinese prioritized mergers and acquisitions in sectors such as energy, mining and agribusiness. In fact, China was the largest investor in these areas in 2012, even ahead of the United States.
Looking at the future, Professor Cacciamali says that Brazil expects more investment in infrastructures. “The main idea is to improve the economic relations between China and Brazil (…) we are optimistic. What we have seen over the last few years is a growing interest in investing in sectors that are important for Brazil,” she said.
She concluded by saying that it is also vital to “enhance the manufacturing trade balance between Brazil and China,” while at the same time working towards improving the domestic production channel in Brazil.
Talking as part of the same panel, and providing perspectives on the relations between China and Brazil, Professor Wu Bai Yi, Vice-President of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, talked mainly about how China is bound to readjust its social, economic and financial policies.
He thinks that such readjustments will also have an impact on Brazil. As the external demand grows, the professor sees it as both an opportunity and a challenge for export industries. “Our economic growth policy will shift its focus from scale to quality (…) the idea is to also promote productivity,” he said.
Professor Wu added that, in a coming structural reform of the industries, “a lot of attention will be paid to high-tech manufacturing industries,” requiring China to shift the emphasis of its capital investment, and of its buyers.
The scholar believes that this means there is great potential for Brazil, and at the same time China “will try to smooth co-operation and negotiations, trying to increase the investments coming into Brazil. Then China will try to fasten the industry transformation process, including those emerging and new high-tech manufacturing industries.”
The professor emphasized that the bilateral relationship between China and Brazil will be broadened, as “tensions have shifted.” However, he stressed that both nations “cannot go further without embracing each other and being more open, as nobody can afford to sacrifice the interests of the other partner.” Therefore, Professor Wu stated that these relations should be based on sustainable development.
Professor Kenneth David Jackson, Director of Undergraduate Studies for Portuguese at Yale University, introduced the relations between both countries from a slightly different perspective, focusing on literature.
Reciting poems from the Brazilian author Machado de Assis, the scholar took the audience on a quick journey through the works of a writer who, without having knowledge of the Chinese language, translated classic Chinese poetry through versions published in other languages.
Moreover, he translated and introduced some of Machado de Assis’s poems into English, as well as Chinese.
Moderating the panel was former ambassador of the Chinese Embassy to Brazil, Mr Chen Du Qing, who concluded that there is “full confidence in the further development of Sino-Brazilian relations based on the 40 years of development.” He recalled that, in terms of trade, in 1974 the trade volume amounted to over USD17 million, when last year amounted to USD19 billion.
The symposium’s program closes today, with scholars focusing on comparing China and Brazil’s development, and also their relations with Macau.
Growing interest in learning Portuguese and Mandarin in US
Professor Kenneth David Jackson, who currently serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Portuguese at Yale University in the US, says that there is a growing interest in learning Portuguese and Mandarin in America.
Participating in the International Symposium on “Chinese-Lusophone Relations: China and Brazil,” the professor told reporters that people were previously particularly interested in learning French or German, but now their interest has shifted to Portuguese and Mandarin, corresponding with increases in commercial trade. “China is, of course, a big country and [the] Portuguese [language] for China is a door for internationalization,” he stressed.