Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Brazil, China, Lula, and Friends

Spotted by A.M. atPublius Carlos Alberto Montaner gives an interesting tidbit on a conversation Brazilian president Lula had with Javier Solana.

(FIRMAS PRESS. Madrid) Javier Solana, the European Union's skillful Minister of Foreign Relations, let slip a revealing confidence. As he said during a seminar held recently in Spain, a somewhat melancholy Lula da Silva described to him his frustrating experience with the Chinese authorities. The Brazilian leader had gone to Beijing to try to recruit the Chinese for the creation of a kind of political-economic axis that would include China, India, South Africa and Brazil, but he found no receptivity among the Chinese, who naturally were the key element in the emerging Third-World pole Lula was trying to promote.

That is really telling. More than whatever specifics of what he proposed - which is not clear - Lula gets blown off, a sign that Chavez and Morales can expect nothing from them either, unless it involves cold hard cash or the possibility of cash.

The anecdote illustrates the fundamental difference between the international vision of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, a geological engineer and veteran apparatchik, and that of Lula da Silva, former labor union leader and President of Brazil. The Asian leader is a pragmatic statesman, more interested in prolonging his country incredible economic feat than in engaging in worldwide political rivalries typical of the Cold War, while the Latin American, despite his relative and perhaps growing moderation, remains trapped in the false political schemes of old, which pictured a hostile world where East and West, or North and South, or poor and rich countries faced each other off, a belligerent scene that supposedly required nations to seek protection under the vault of some saving bloc.

Montaner, is prone to making sweeping generalizations and over-excagerating on his shorter pieces, when he compares both the Chinese and the Brazlian leader he hits some, misses others:

Lula is not articulating any such "alliance" between his country, China, India and South America because he happens to be a former labor leader or has center left positions. Montaner should know better. Brazil does not just propose significant international treaties - or shift its foreign policy, without the consensus of its foreign policy establishment, with input from civilian and military strategists and business leaders. That proposal of an "alliance" sounds like something the foreign ministry would come up with and present to whoever was in power in Brazil, left, right or center.
Since Montaner does not say much as to the substance of the proposal beyond that it is a "political-economic axis", I can only guess. Well fact is, any alliance, economic political or otherwise, would cover more than half of humanity, 4 of the largest countries of the world, and by size 1 and 2 largest markets in the world. The Chinese, no matter who the messenger, are not easy to convince to do anything, much less anything involving India.

So all four of these countries are at least partially in the Southern Hemisphere, with ample coastlines, close to shipping lanes. Wonder if Lula is proposing some sort of common market? Is he asking about some sort of transfer payments to elevate Brazilian's poor?? Both Brazil and South Africa have a good core economy, with millions of highly educated citizens at the first world level - but still have scary wealth disparities.

I like Montaner's larger point to not fear the Chineses economy, that is true. But on the other hand, do not for a moment think that the Chinese Dragon will not show its teeth to defend what it perceives as its national interest.


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