Will Bol­sonaro stick to pro-Washington pol­icy?

Global Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Wu Hongy­ing The au­thor is Spe­cial As­sis­tant to the Pres­i­dent of the China In­sti­tute of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions. opin­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn

On New Year's Day, Jair Bol­sonaro took of­fice as Brazil's pres­i­dent, ush­er­ing in a pro-US for­eign pol­icy. He claimed Brazil is open to host­ing a US mil­i­tary base to counter Rus­sian in­flu­ence in the re­gion and will move Brazil's Is­raeli em­bassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

How­ever, Bol­sonaro's pro-US stance will not lead to a change in the coun­try's long-term for­eign pol­icy to­ward China. In the short run, there would be an in­terim ob­ser­va­tion pe­riod dur­ing which the new ad­min­is­tra­tion will try to weigh its for­eign pol­icy to­ward China. But in the long term, the new pres­i­dent will pre­fer ties with China.

Bol­sonaro, a for­mer Army para­trooper who has been in the congress for al­most 30 years, lacks gov­ern­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. There­fore, his knowl­edge about China, China-Brazil re­la­tions and diplo­matic af­fairs, es­pe­cially for­eign pol­icy to­ward China, is lim­ited. It can ex­plain why he was not friendly to­ward China dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign, when he claimed, “China isn't buy­ing in Brazil. It's buy­ing Brazil.”

Fur­ther­more, in early 2018, Bol­sonaro be­came the first Brazil­ian pres­i­den­tial can­di­date to visit Tai­wan though Brazil sup­ports the one-China pol­icy. How­ever, it is likely that af­ter be­com­ing in­creas­ingly aware of China-Brazil re­la­tions, his for­eign pol­icy will be­come more prac­ti­cal and ra­tio­nal.

In the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, Bol­sonaro pledged eco­nomic growth, which is his pri­or­ity. To bol­ster the econ­omy, the new ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to boost ex­ports. China is Brazil's big­gest trad­ing part­ner, over­tak­ing the US in 2009. China and Brazil are eco­nom­i­cally com­ple­men­tary. Ac­cord­ing to a South China Morn­ing Post re­port, trade be­tween Brazil and China crossed $100 bil­lion last year, and Brazil­ian ex­ports to China sat at $66.6 bil­lion, a 32 per­cent rise from the pre­vi­ous year.

Be­sides, Brazil plans to at­tract more investment to boost its econ­omy. China is the coun­try of choice with the abil­ity and will to in­vest in Brazil. There­fore, if Brazil wants to im­prove its econ­omy and stature, it must gain the sup­port of China, which is the world's sec­ond largest econ­omy.

In the long run, China-Brazil re­la­tions may be more im­por­tant than US-Brazil ties. Cur­rently, the US is con­cen­trat­ing on re­vi­tal­iz­ing its man­u­fac­tur­ing and tight­en­ing for­eign investment rules. There­fore, it won't be wise for Brazil to rely on the US for help to de­velop its econ­omy.

As the largest coun­try in Latin Amer­ica, Brazil has avoided be­ing in US spot­light, try­ing to be in­de­pen­dent and mak­ing its pres­ence felt through re­gional al­liances and mul­ti­lat­eral in­sti­tu­tions. How­ever, Bol­sonaro wants to change this. He seeks to aban­don mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism and shows a diplo­matic tilt to the US.

Bol­sonaro is a big fan of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his slo­gan dur­ing the elec­tion cam­paign, “Brazil be­fore ev­ery­thing,” re­sem­bles Trump's “Amer­ica First.” His moves in the be­gin­ning would re­sem­ble Trump's. So he will strengthen ties with the US but make fewer ef­forts for mul­ti­lat­eral and South-South co­op­er­a­tion.

Nev­er­the­less, Brazil is still a de­vel­op­ing coun­try, not as strong and con­fi­dent as the US, so it is im­pos­si­ble for Brazil to be to­tally uni­lat­eral or bi­lat­eral. It should fo­cus on South-South co­op­er­a­tion. In­flu­enced by a global eco­nomic slow­down in re­cent years, Brazil suf­fered from a deep re­ces­sion that be­gan in 2016.

If Bol­sonaro wants to fix Brazil's econ­omy, co­op­er­at­ing only with the US and de­vel­oped coun­tries is not enough. Brazil has to strengthen its co­op­er­a­tion with de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, em­pha­siz­ing South-South co­op­er­a­tion.

Brazil is an im­por­tant BRICS mem­ber and there is also an in­terim ob­ser­va­tion pe­riod to see whether “Brazil be­fore ev­ery­thing” can af­fect BRICS and South-South co­op­er­a­tion. In the era of glob­al­iza­tion, no coun­try can achieve long-term de­vel­op­ment with­out co­op­er­at­ing with the rest of the world. Bol­sonaro has to turn to mul­ti­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu Rui/GT

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