By Stephen Thompson
April 20, 2010
Nothing is stranger and more remarkable in the world of international relations and alliances than the recent cosying up of Brazil’s new democracy in the post dictatorship era with the people’s dictatorship of China. How can Brazil’s leaders, who themselves were persecuted socialist dissidents in their youth, identify so closely with a party-state which has abandoned socialism while maintaining dictatorship with censorship, propaganda and repression? The answer lies in the shared opposition to US hegemony, more than infatuation with China’s model”.
China’s ruling CCP has a long history of “exploiting contradictions” between its foes and making alliances with the enemies of its enemies. For example, following the 1960 Sino-Soviet split, China fostered proxy wars to undermine the Soviet Union’s influence in Angola, by funding the UNITA guerilla army, which was then fighting the Soviet backed government in Luanda. Similarly, China’s reluctance to sanction Iran can be understood as support for a proxy who is pushing back against the US, and this support is only limited by China’s realistic assessment of it’s continued weakness in relation to the US led anti nuclear proliferation alliance.
Another example of this could be seen in China’s relations with Europe in the last decade, which it tended to value more, and tended to improve, during conflicts with the US. Growing assertiveness on China’s part is leading to a closer US-Europe relationship, as the two sides find themselves more frequently on the same side in disputes with China
Brazil’s leaders also see value in alliances with countries which share their hostility to US foreign policy and its Monroe doctrine. This hostility springs from their experience in their youth of repressive dictatorship which was supported by was CIA, which was well documented at the time by Philip Agee and others. CIA support was crucial in undermining other democratically elected governments in Chile, Argentina and other places, where they were replaced by authoritarian dictatorships which ignored human rights far more than China does today. In Brazil, several hundred people were murdered in a few years. It was this failed policy which led Brazil’s socialist leaders to their current cynicism towards of US human rights advocacy, and their friendly relationships with China, as well as Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and others. The negative repercussions of earlier US policy in its “back yard” are still being felt in the South America.
China on the other hand is always quick to take advantage of antagonism towards the US, and it uses this effectively in its government propaganda. Propaganda has been a hallmark of Communist Party’s “fight for hearts and minds” ever since the birth of the Chinese Communist Party in the 1920, and before that in the Bolshevik experience of information use, from which they learned this method. To this they added the traditional shrewdness of Chinese strategy, which is well known in the west through Sunzi’s “Art of War” – disinformation has a long history in China, and religion has never exerted a moral deterrence against lying to the extent it has in Northern Europe since the protestant reformation. As early western travellers such as Lord Macartney noted, their is no shame in lying in China. The same could be said for the Catholic religion, where all is forgiven at confession.
When Hu Jintao visited Brazil in 2005, Brazil opened its market to China in the hope of political support for its bid to join the UN security council. The gesture, which cost Brazil thousands of jobs, was not reciprocated. Indeed, no advanced country has recognised China as a market economy, because this means giving up the right to take action against dumping in the WTO. And China is clearly not a fully market economy – the Communist Party-State has a monopoly of the main industries there. So why did Brazil make such a wasteful concession to China with no guarantee of return?
It could be that Brazil’s leaders just do not understand China – they have not done their homework. Unlike Europe, North American and Japan, South America has no sinologists, no university courses in Chinese Studies, few Chinese language courses or exchange programs with Chinese universities. So when Itamarity needs advice on China policy, they have no home-grown expertise to turn to for advice.
But it could be that even with such advise on hand, Lula would still push for his grand alliance regardless of cost. He seems to share with the Chinese a love of making large wasteful displays. Witness his recent emotion on winning the Olympic Games, even though he must know this is equivalent of pouring gasoline on the endemic fire of Brazilian corruption, and even though Brazil desperately needs to increase spending on more important things, such as health and education.
Ultimately, it seems that Lula has no gratitude – gratitude for the forces of Democracy which brought him to power. He began his career in an era of military dictatorship, without free elections, and with press censorship, when dissidents and activists were routinely abducted, tortured and even killed by the Brazilian police. Without the democratic rule which was won in the 1980s, he would never have come to power. So why is he now allying his country with China, which leads the world in censorship, repression and authoritarian rule? Does he have no sympathy for the hundreds of people who are in jail in China because they tried to get compensation for their injured children, or because they organized a petition, or because they sent an email to a foreigner? Brazil’s alliance with China undermines the forces of democracy which brought Lula power. So Lula must have a short memory, or no sense of gratitude.
You can contract Stephen via firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read previous articles by Stephen click the links below:
Running After My Boss
Brazil: Run for your life!
If God is a Brazilian…
Amazon Exhibition in Tokyo
Other Places to Speak Portuguese (Apart From Brazil): Macau
Brazilian Music in Translation
China is Quite Popular in Brazil These Days
Brazil: Physical Fitness and Personal Training in São Paulo Part 2
Brazil: Physical Fitness and Personal Training in São Paulo Part 1
Brazil: What’s in a Name?
Brazil: Go East, Young Man
Brazil: This Is The Life I’ve Always Wanted
Brazil: Stolen Computer
My First Business Failure in Brazil Part 2
My First Business Failure in Brazil Part 1
Getting your Brazilian Steak Fix in China
Brazil: Birth and Dying
Imaginary Voyages to Brazil
Brazil: Probably the Best Country in the World to Live In
Great Brazilian Inventions: The Kilo Restaurant
Brazil: Things you wanted to know… and will never know!
Brazil: Expensive, Trendy, and Extremely Beautiful
Brazil: Not Really British Enough
Package Holidays to Brazil are Back On Track
Brazil: Reverse Culture Shock
Brazil: The Legal System
Brazil: Saying Goodbye to a Bilingual Kid
How to get Brazilian Citizenship
Getting Work in Brazil
Acquiring and Running a Small Business in Brazil
Brazil: To Free Or Not To Free
Brazil: Trail Biking in Chapada Diamantinha
Brazil: So Near, but So Far Apart
How to Get Into University in Brazil
The Pleasure of Driving a Car in Brazil
Brazil: The Bairro of Flamengo in Ro de Janeiro
Brazil: The Information Technology Law
Managing a Brazilian bank account
Brazil’s Middle Class Ruled By Political Apathy