Brazil’s President Lula starts China tour, eyeing closer bilateral cooperation
Published: Apr 12, 2023 11:33 PM
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Photo: VCG

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva Photo: VCG

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Wednesday officially kicked off his highly expected visit to China, after a brief delay due to his health condition.

Lula arrived in Shanghai late Wednesday to start a state visit that is believed to boost bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, including the use of local currencies in trade settlement and the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  

Lula's stop in Shanghai, which includes a visit to a Brazilian firm's newly opened research and development (R&D) and innovation center, underscored that top on the agenda of his trip is not only traditional economic and trade cooperation, but also collaboration in new emerging technologies and the digital economy, observers noted.  

Moreover, following a series of high-level trips to China by foreign leaders in recent weeks, the Brazilian president's trip will also promote true multilateralism and collaboration in various multilateral platforms, particularly under the platform of BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, observers said. 

Busy agenda

"Good morning. Boarding for China ... Ready to follow the agendas?" Lula wrote in Portuguese on Twitter on Wednesday before starting his trip to China, hinting at a busy schedule in the host country. Earlier, he said on Twitter that the journey is "to strengthen relations with our biggest trading partner," noting that "much needs to be done for a better country."

While foreign leaders usually start their state visits in Beijing, the Chinese capital, Lula's first stop is in Shanghai, where he was set to visit the BRICS' New Development Bank (NDB), some Chinese tech firms as well as the R&D center of Brazilian firm Suzano, according to various media reports and relevant companies. 

Pablo Machado, president of Suzano Asia for Beyond Pulp Business, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the Brazilian delegation will visit Suzano China Innovability Hub located in Zhangjiang Science City in Shanghai on Thursday afternoon.

The Innovability Hub is Suzano's first R&D and innovation center in Asia. With an investment of over $10 million, it acts as an open collaboration base for various pulp, paper, packaging, hygiene and bio-materials product participants and other stakeholders in China and overseas to drive sustainable development.

"We firmly believe the visit of the Brazilian delegation to China will bring more opportunities for both countries to work together, learn from each other and generate significant value for their people and for the world," Machado noted.

Lula's stop in Shanghai also signals a top focus of his trip. "As Shanghai is an economic center of China, Lula's first stop in the city shows that Brazil places a higher priority on enhancing economic and trade cooperation," Dong Jingsheng, deputy director of Peking University's Latin America Research Center, told the Global Times on Wednesday. Lula's visit to some technology companies in Shanghai demonstrates that Brazil is seeking further cooperation with China in science and technology, Dong remarked. 

"With the rapid development of new economic engines like 5G and artificial intelligent in recent years, it is no longer enough to rely solely on economic and trade complementarity to meet the needs of both sides," Dong said. "That's why the concept of 'beyond complementarity' is being proposed, meaning that in addition to economic and trade ties, the two sides can further promote other emerging areas such as science and technology as well as financial cooperation."

In recent years, China's digital economy has been booming, with the scale of the industry continuing to grow rapidly, and the country has been ranked second in the world for several years. Analysts noted that China-Brazil cooperation in related field will help drive the development of Brazil's digital economy and make it a new economic growth engine for the Latin America country.

Other closely watched areas of cooperation during Lula's trip is the China-proposed BRI as well as the use of the Chinese yuan or local currencies in trade settlements, observers noted.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China's largest commercial bank, has successfully handled the first cross-border yuan settlement transaction in Brazil via its local branch company, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday.

The enhanced cooperation between the two sides using yuan in trade settlement will become a model for the promotion of yuan business in the whole Latin American region, Zhou Zhiwei, an expert on Latin American studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

True multilateralism

China's position on BRICS cooperation is consistent. We are ready to work with relevant countries to advance BRICS cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and equality and make our due contribution to world peace and development and solidarity and cooperation among developing countries, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson from China's Foreign Ministry, said at the rountine press briefing on Wednesday.

The "hand in hand" between China and Brazil, two largest developing countries in the Eastern and Western hemispheres, will inject stability and positive energy into the turbulent and changing world, experts noted.

Brazil has always played a very active role in the BRICS cooperation mechanism. Lula's first stop to NDB is a reflection of the importance he attaches to the BRICS mechanism, laying a solid foundation for the upcoming meeting between the leaders of China and Brazil, analysts said.

In recent years, China and Brazil have maintained close communication and collaboration at the UN, the G20 and other multilateral mechanisms, and have worked together to create a benchmark and model for South-South cooperation on issues such as climate change, global security cooperation and international development cooperation.

Zhou noted that during Lula's visit to China, the two countries will fully exchange views on international and regional hot issues, which will help to form the rational voice of emerging market countries, and inject more BRICS power for global development governance.

BRICS plays an important role in supporting the development of emerging economies as well as demonstrating the independent views on global security and international order of large developing countries.

In 2021, the combined GDP of the BRICS countries reached $24.5 trillion, accounting for about 23 percent of the total global economy. According to the IFM, the BRICS contributed more than 50 percent to world economic growth. "The BRICS countries are the most important power source leading the world economic growth," Zhou said.

More importantly, the cooperation among the BRICS helps maintain multilateral cooperation in the international environment, thus achieving more efficient global cooperation, Zhou noted.

"BRICS is a new type of cooperation mechanism under multilateralism, which has an important role in promoting the maintenance of the normal world order," Dong said.