Lula in China, a visit with multiple challenges for Brazil

With a four-day visit to China starting on Wednesday, and a meeting scheduled for Friday with Xi Jinping, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, continues the intense diplomatic marathon that began his inaugurationthe 1is last January. The Brazilian leader thus intends to relaunch a Sino-Brazilian relationship with high stakes, but also to mark Brazil’s return to the international scene, after a Bolsonaro era where the Latin giant found himself in the role of pariah.

“Lula wants to reinstate Brazil in world affairs, and show that it can play an important role as mediator in a multipolar order,” explains Gaspard Estrada, political scientist at Sciences Po. Brazilian policy which has always favored multilateralism. Brazil intends to do well and be a pivot in international relations.”

Brazil back on the international stage

Since his inauguration, Lula, who is aiming for a place on the UN Security Council and will chair the G20 next year, has thus been in Argentine and Uruguay and met Olaf Scholz Joe Biden. He is now in China, where he is expected to discuss, among other topics, Ukraine with Xi Jinping.

The Brazilian leader aims to propose a “peace plan” to Ukraine and Russia, drawn up with China and other “neutral” countries in the conflict. Joining Chinese ambiguity, he both condemned Vladimir Putin’s use of force, without sanctioning it, while implying that Russia should withdraw from Ukraine but retain Crimea.

An intermediate position, breaking with the Western point of view, but shared by many countries of the “Global South”, to which Russia and Ukraine have for the moment opposed an end of inadmissibility.

>> To read also: The war in Ukraine, mirror of the divisions between the West and the countries of the South

Position yourself as one of the leaders of the “Global South”

“It is clear that Lula and Xi Jinping intend to work together on the Ukrainian file, and to take a different line from that of the West, based on their status as ‘neutral’ countries, analyzes Christophe Ventura, director of research at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), author of “Geopolitics of Latin America“, published by Eyrolles (Paris, 2022). If this succeeded, it would strengthen Lula, who is well aware that he cannot impose a peace plan without China, but wants to use his ability to dialogue with everyone , to position itself as one of the leaders of the “Global South”.

The Brazilian leader also intends to relaunch the “Brics“, this disparate group of emerging countries with a growing role, which brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, and whose summit is scheduled for next summer in Pretoria.

“Since the beginning of the conflict, remarks Mylène Gaulard, lecturer in economics at the University of Grenoble and specialist in Sino-Brazilian relations, these countries have put their discord aside and have come together, politically and economically, in a pole distinct from the United States and the European Union. Brazil intends to play its part in it.”

New Silk Roads

The economy will also be at the center of Lula’s visit, China having become the first economic partner of Brazil, which intends to a third of its exports. A delegation of 200 Brazilian business leaders – much larger than the one present during Lula’s trip to Washington in February – thus preceded the Brazilian president to China at the end of March, and negotiated around twenty trade agreements.

The two countries have notably decided to exchange directly in their national currencies by doing without the dollar. A snub to the United States, but also a way to guard against the economic instability of Western countries and the volatility of the dollar, underlines Mylène Gaulard.

This close rapprochement could also be coupled with Brazil’s entry into the New Silk Roads, the pharaonic Chinese investment project. A way for Lula to strengthen trade between the two countries and develop investment in its territory, while Brazil is going through a bad economic patch and its growth prospects are modest in 2023.

If the discussions are successful, Brazil will thus join the twenty or so Latin American countries already participating in the Chinese project.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.