Monday, March 9, 2015

Brazil-China Relations

The RSIS Working Paper series presents papers in a preliminary form and serves to stimulate comment and discussion. The views expressed in this publication are entirely those of the author(s), and do not represent the official position of RSIS. This publication may be reproduced electronically or in print with prior written permission obtained from RSIS and due credit given to the author(s) and RSIS. Please email for further editorial queries.

No. 287 dated 10 March 2015

Brazil-China Relations

By Loro Horta

Chinese leaders consider relations with Brazil to be of utmost importance. Brazil’s vast reserves of natural resources, its massive agricultural sector and market potential for Chinese exports make Brazil one of China’s top foreign policy priorities. Within the past decade, Sino-Brazilian ties have soared with trade reaching US$22 billion in 2007 and Brazil becoming China’s main South American trading partner. In early 2009, China even surpassed the United States as Brazil's largest trading partner with two-way trade reaching a staggering US$43 billion. Both countries have cooperated in various sensitive technology sectors such as satellite and military technologies, and are expanding these exchanges. Today, Brazil accounts for 40 per cent of China’s total agricultural exports and is therefore extremely important for food security of the Asian giant as well.

Many observers have argued that China’s growing relations with Brazil is likely to lead to an alliance between the so-called "third world giants" to balance American and Western hegemony. While there are indeed several complementarities between the two emerging economies and while both countries share some common political beliefs regarding the international system, many issues of contention will remain and perhaps be aggravated as Sino-Brazilian ties develop. Alliances have very different meanings in the post-Cold War context, and they no longer imply rigid military and economic blocks confronting one another. The concept of “strategic partnership” is a better framework to look into new power relations in the 21st century.

Despite some tensions in Sino-Brazilian relations, both nations can be expected to grow closer to one another. The positive aspects of their relationship far outweigh the problems and tensions inherent in most relations among major powers. The Sino-Brazilian strategic partnership is likely to produce significant changes in the balance of power in the Americas. China's growing ties to Brazil, however, will not necessarily lead to a dramatic loss of influence for the United States. While China has gained an impressive economic presence in Brazil — and in the region — economic influence does not always translate into political and strategic dominance. The economic power of the United States remains the dominant force and its century old relationship with Brazil continues to have a strong appeal among the Brazilians. Arguably, China's growing influence in the Americas, to an extent, is a result of previous U.S. administrations' neglect of the region's needs and it remains to be seen what effect would a more attentive U.S. administration will have in facing China's growing influence in Latin America.

Click on the following link to download the working paper


Loro Horta is a senior diplomat based in Beijing. He is adjunct senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He is a graduate of the People’s Liberation Army National Defence University (PLANDU) senior officers course and also a graduate of the US Naval Post Graduate School and the American National Defence University. He is also a consultant with the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA).

No comments: