top of page

What Could Brazil Want from China

Philip Yang

Published by Valor (São Paulo)

February 14, 2020



“Oh, so you’re a banana!”, said a Chinese classmate to me after a heated debate on ethnic and cultural identity in the first year of my masters in the United States. “Yes, a banana,” she reasserted seeing my bafflement, her accent audible through her laughter. “That’s what we call people who, like the fruit, are yellow on the outside and white on the inside.”


This term was new to me. She went on to explain that in China and in Chinese communities all over the world, this expression is used to designate people who, like me, are of Chinese origins and features, but who have a Western worldview in their culture, language, and mannerisms. It’s often used pejoratively – and with the intention to offend – by Chinese purists critical of their fellow countrymen who distance themselves from their cultural origins and adopt Western values and behaviors. This term is more often than not used playfully to characterize the Westernization of Chinese people, and how their habits and customs are ever more distant from their roots.


Once familiar with the meaning of this new metaphor, but still under the shock of what I had perceived as an insult, I retorted and said “I am not a banana.” “Using your fruit metaphor, I am closer to a passion fruit, yellow on the outside and mixed on the inside, like any good Brazilian is.” Brazil is not exactly Western, I explained, with no desire to linger on this point. And I’m also not white, I thought to myself. Maybe we are a mixed and tropical West, an Extreme West — a blend of worlds.


This was in the year 2000. China had barely gone through two decades of economic reform following the redefinition of the role of the state and the market led by Deng Xiaoping in 1978. Despite its high growth rates, I didn’t find China particularly interesting. To me, it was a great and distant country of geopolitical significance, and that, like Brazil, sought a path to prosperity.


Today, all of this has radically changed. My attitude towards China went from indifference to perplexity. How did China manage, in just four decades of reform, to become the world’s largest economic power, not only in terms of growth, but also in incomparable technological innovation and educational outcomes? And why is it that in Brazil, after three decades of reforms outlined by the constitution of 1988, we feel condemned to economic and social stagnation?


For any Brazilian, the contrast between the two countries is appalling. For me, a Brazilian of Chinese origins, the difference is torturous. Why did my father leave China? Was moving to Brazil worth it? I can obviously find clear answers to those questions. If my father had not escaped China, he would probably have been killed, given the political relationships he maintained with the elite of Chiang Kai-shek’s old nationalist regime. My second oldest brother, who stayed behind with our grandmother, became depressed as he was no longer allowed to play his violin during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), and shortened his life by jumping into a railway .


It seems obvious that it was indeed worth it to leave, but this is not an equation that is emotionally simple to solve. China’s thundering economic success defies reason. What is worse is that my indignation in seeing Brazil’s failure in comparison makes it impossible to be objective. Where did we go wrong? Can we learn from the Chinese example? Or is the cultural and political context of each China and Brazil so unique that comparing them is impossible?


In the absence of analytical clarity, I take recourse in political theory. Political science literature teaches us that the transformations of the state happen as a result of three factors: (i) international forces, (ii) domestic variables (“bottom-up”), and (iii) pressures exerted by the state apparatus itself (“top down”).[1] Perhaps a comparative analysis between Brazil’s development post-1988 vis-à-vis China’s post-1978 could elucidate these two countries’ future paths.


Objectively speaking -- and leaving the ideological debate aside - a single question emerges in my perplexed mind: in these last few decades of reform, what led to China’s exceptional economic performance and to such negligible growth in Brazil?


Was it historical, cultural, and geographic determinism that catapulted China into a leading position in the global economy?[2] Or was this success due to the determination and voluntarism of its leaders and its people, or even to the quality of the of the ‘socialist economy with Chinese characteristics'? And wherefore Brazil’s own relative failure? From our heritage, our peripheral historical and geographic circumstances, or from our leaders and of our people? What can be done about it?


My intention with this essay is to try to glean something from this comparison. I would like to add a caveat to not discourage any readers from the start: if I express admiration or make reference to China’s achievements, it does not mean that I complacently or naively endorse its complex system. My objective is merely to observe, with humility and as free of prejudice as possible, what lessons the Chinese experience can offer, as well as to identify possible alternatives for Brazil’s own social and economic development. That is, without imitating China, how can Brazil translate those lessons to its own context to succeed?[3]


i. international factors


From an international perspective, it seems obvious that the geopolitical context of the 1970s would put China in a much more central position than that of Brazil. Controlling the third largest territory on the planet, spanning from Central Asia to the Pacific Ocean, with more than 8,500 miles of temperate coastline, inhabited by more than a billion people with a culture and history dating back thousands of years, China has always been, because of its history and geography, incomparably more important than Brazil in an international system long determined by the relations between countries from the global north.


In the context of the Cold War, China’s relative advantage led to the rapprochement between Washington and Beijing, articulated by Kissinger’s secret visit to Zhou Enlai in 1971. This meeting propelled China to reach a level of geopolitical and diplomatic importance that Brazil could never attain.


Thus, the so-called ‘triangular diplomacy’ took off under the leadership of Mao Zedong and Richard Nixon. China began to distance itself from the Soviet Union and altered the balance of what had thus far been a binary balance of power. By doing so, China opened the doors to cooperation with the United States, a relationship that would prove fruitful to China’s economic development. In particular, it is important to note that the Sino-American alliance triggered their deep, complex, and sophisticated bilateral economic and commercial interdependence still in vigor today.


Brazil’s trajectory in the same period was the complete opposite. Due to geopolitical contingencies, strategic irrelevance, extreme vulnerability, political ineptitude, creative insufficiency, or the absence of sufficiently catalyzing leaders, Brazil did not establish a preferential relationship with any of the hegemonic powers that could have opened its access to markets, provided support in revolutionizing work productivity, and transformed our economic destiny as China did in its relationship with the United States.


Brazil, targeted by the protectionism of the 1974 U.S. Trade Act and weakened by its dependence on oil imports (the price of which rose markedly as a result of the 1973 crisis, resulting in a significant commercial imbalance as well as great inflationary pressure), distanced itself from Washington during Ernesto Geisel’s presidency. And, thus, after periods of greater alignment with the United States, Brazilian diplomacy in the 1970s focused instead on looking for a more independent stance in defence of universal values.


In other words, the Sino-American relationship created the necessary institutional stability for their economic and cultural interests to become intertwined. Meanwhile, Brazilian diplomacy, overlooked by Washington, faced a series of complicating or vexing factors in its relationship with the United States, including the decision to distance itself from Israel and develop a relationship with the Arab world, support the decolonization of Africa and Asia, recognize the independence of Angola, Guiné Bissau, and Mozambique (despite the fact that these new states were founded by marxist movements), and lastly sign the West German-Brazilian Nuclear Agreement of 1975, which prompted the construction of the Angra 1 and Angra 2 power plants.


Brazil’s autonomist stance, termed “responsible pragmatism” by historians, expresses the awareness that, given the country’s geopolitical irrelevance, any automatic alignment with Washington would not necessarily result in any relevant advantage for Brazil. On a personal note, my impression of Itamaraty — having worked in the Brazil's foreign service from 1991 to 2001— is that the majority of my former colleagues were primarily concerned with identifying and defending our permanent national interests on pragmatic and non-ideological grounds.


In the classrooms of the Rio Branco Institute, Brazil’s diplomatic academy, we often admired how the professionalism of foreign service officers in the military regime clearly distinguished state interests (i. e. permanent, national, and strategic) from government interests (which seemed more situational), to the point of supporting socialist movements even at the height of the military dictatorship. This distinction between state and government interests became slowly diluted throughout the subsequent democratic (civilian) presidential mandates, gradually transforming diplomacy into a partisan instrument serving ideological and internal interests instead.


Take Brazil’s foreign policy towards Venezuela, for example. Under Lula’s mandate, our bilateral relationship was founded on supporting Chavismo, while today, under Bolsonaro, diplomatic action is focused instead to opposing Maduro. In both cases, it seems clear that opportunistic and transitory concerns trumped our permanent, non-partisan geostrategic interests, such as control and management of the Amazon, border stability and security, combating drug trafficking, and access to oil, considering Venezuela’s ownership of the world’s largest oil reserve.


The consistency of China’s foreign policy over the past four decades shows that its ideology is strongly anchored in the fundamental strategic interests of the state, even when it comes to its international alignment with Pyongyang or Caracas. Diplomacy in China’s case is thus deployed as an instrument for protecting national interests — such as territorial integrity, economic and commercial development, cultural and educational cooperation, technological innovation — in the long-term. Undoubtedly, the stability of China’s foreign policy is a result of the single-party political system. Given that Brazil is a democracy with a multiparty political system, the question, or rather the dilemma in this case, is how to ensure that Brazil’s permanent interests are not obfuscated by the competing demands of opposing political currents, which, though legitimate, can jeopardize the country’s broader, collective interests.


It is not necessarily worth revisiting the foreign policies of these two countries in recent years. What is worth noting, however, is that international forces shaping China and Brazil had very different results: China’s transformation had a global reach (e.g. China’s membership in the WTO, the One Belt, One Road Initiative, etc.), while in Brazil these changes had a regional impact instead (e.g. MERCOSUL, Treaty of Asunción, etc.). These international changes were proportionally reflected domestically: of great, radical impact across China, yet comparatively limited and moderate in Brazil, with no real internal impact.


Overall, the stability of China’s rapprochement to the United States resulted in a wave of investments that transformed China into the world’s great factory, which had an impact on international power structures and in China’s internal reality. Brazil, on the other hand, overlooked by hegemonic powers, depended on endogenous changes to consolidate a status quo of a middle power, and to strengthen its autonomy, but without ascending in the power hierarchy like China did.


Could a genius of diplomacy or formidable leader have changed our fate? Had we had the vision and drive of a statesman like Bismarck, the unitive power of a visionary like Gandhi, or even the charisma of a leader like De Gaulle, would we have been able to build a less peripheral path? Perhaps we can find solace in the thought that, at least in the diplomatic realm, we did what we could (and we could count on what intellectual assets we had at our disposal). Therefore, we can argue for a pardon, as there was little else we could have done to avoid the sidelines of international power politics.


Think of the Western world as a club of elite membership, which adopted institutions like the UN Security Council, the G7, or the OECD as symbols, but also as instruments of power. This club, led by the United States over the past century, did not count Brazil among its members. Over the post-war decades, Brazil’s position has been subsidiary.


Usually, one does not enter a prestigious and powerful club for three main reasons: because one does not want to, because one is not invited, or because, despite having tried, one has failed. In the club called The West, led by the United States in the 20th century, Brazil did not enter. I’ll let the reader guess why.


ii. domestic factors (bottom-up)


Maybe, and I emphasize maybe, the comparison of domestic factors in the transformation of China and Brazil points to a more encouraging and optimistic perspective for our country. In order to understand the parallel reality of different countries, methodologies in comparative politics recommend the systematic analysis of a series of variables, which I will list henceforth as questions:


- When the two great reforms began in China and Brazil in 1978 and 1988 respectively, what was each country’s level of industrialization? What was the magnitude of their respective consumer markets? At what stage in the transformation from fordism to a service economy were each of them? What was the scale and quality of the education sector; the strength of unions; the strength of social mobilization; the level of democratization (to be discussed in more depth in the next section)?


- Can we discuss the welfare state in Brazil and in China in that historical moment as an expression of the balance between capital and labor? What was the size of the agricultural sector? - What was the level of concentration and structure of land ownership? What was the size, quality and availability of human capital, or, in other words, what was the size of the middle class with completed post-secondary education? What was the availability of raw materials, energy, and natural resources? What was the degree of ethnic homogeneity and social cohesion, from the point of view of the values and principles that guided each society?


A table plotting the situation of each country on the first year of their respective reforms would indicate that Brazil started from a more advantageous position in the main indicators listed above. In only a few decades, however, China surpassed us in almost every domain. The real figures for each of these indicators are well known, so I will only cite a few random examples of this dynamic comparison as to not bore the reader. In 1980, China’s GDP per capita was US$200 and US$3,500 in Brazil; in 2019, China reached US$10,000, multiplying its GDP per capita more than fifty-fold, while Brazil, with a population six times smaller, reached 2019 with US$8,796, only growing 2.5 times in the same time period.


Qualitatively, the recent results of the PISA (the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, considered the world’s most important evaluation in education, that measures student performance in reading, math, and science), China is first by far and ahead of countries that traditionally lead the ranking.[4] In contrast, Brazil ranked in 57th place in the reading exams.


I reserve the final lines in this section to comment on two fundamental aspects for an comparative analysis of two countries that, in light of future action, require elaboration. Brazil became an influential actor in the global stage in two economic sectors: agriculture and energy. Curiously, China’s blistering growth resulted in its becoming dependent in these two sectors: China is the world’s largest importer of agricultural products as well as oil. A popular metaphor depicts China as an economic giant standing on two gnome legs, highlighting the fact that its trajectory has led to its becoming dependent on foreign actors, and as a result, vulnerable to external shocks. (Inversely, Brazil has the legs of a giant in agriculture and energy, but walks as a gnome…)


Is there a deep political reflection to undertake on this matter? Throughout the 40 years that China climbed to the Mount Olympus of the great global powers, Brazil went from importing foodstuffs to becoming one the main players in global agribusiness as one of the largest exporters of agricultural products in the world. There were important gains in production and soil productivity, as much in plantations as in cattle farming and aviculture. In terms of energy, we became a reference in the international production of ultradeep offshore oil.


Should policy action target this curious complementarity? Or should we let market forces and agents alone construct the convergence of these interests? Of course, Brazil has other assets. We have a competent mineral industry, a significant aerospace segment of the market, as well as quality mathematics. But my focus here is agriculture and energy, since it is here that China and Brazil are extremely complementary. I leave further reflection on this subject on hold until the end of this text.


With regard to domestic factors that contribute to state transformations, I would like to highlight the strong contrast between the human and historical heritage of each country. No value judgment can be made on this issue, as we run the risk of delving into delusions of ethnocentric evaluations. But the striking differences are of course worth noting as a point of reference for both reflection and action, so that the reading of the present and the construction of the future can somehow be produced from the particularities of each reality.


On the one hand, there is the ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural homogeneity of China. The systemic uniformity that prevailed in the 1970s (and still prevails today) is the result of a millenary, rich, and violent history, where a dominant ethnic group, the Han (which today makes up 92% of the population), made its values, principles, in short, its worldview prevail even over invaders. In the last two millennia, a philosophy, social ethics, political ideology and way of life — Confucianism — has shaped with rare force the collective and political Chinese behavior, reinforcing homogeneity and social cohesion.[5] The social equality of the 1970s, which took the shape of widespread poverty, had, as a short-term factor, the general failure of the statism of the means of production established by the Maoist regime and, as a long-term factor, the decline of the imperial regime throughout the 19th century, which would lead to the fragmentation (and humiliation) of China in the first half of the 20th century.


In the Brazilian context, our rich ethnic and cultural diversity is the defining feature of who we are as a society. What's more, the patrimonial roots of the Brazilian State have made inequality our other defining feature. That is, the starting points in China and Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s were completely different, not to say diametrically opposed. It is key to keep in mind that our diversity is rooted in European immigration and two great horrors: the gradual decimation, by disease and extreme violence, of the indigenous population, that killed over 10 million people, and slavery, which subjected 40 million Africans for centuries. These are wounds in our social body that still remain open and inflamed.


With these differences in mind, what are the bottom-up State transformations in each country, that we can hope for in the coming years?


If China's recent stability is the result of its ethnic and cultural homogeneity, something that was inherited from previous generations, Brazil's political, economic, and social stability is yet to be built on the basis of the richness of its diversity. Yet, this potential can only be realized from an attitude of active integration, where no single identity struggle - for ideological, ethnic, or gender recognition, all legitimate and necessary - prevails over ideals of universal value.


I admit that this statement is vague, but the ideals that move the masses are necessarily diffuse and haughty so that they can precisely engage and encompass the largest number of individuals. "What is your utopia?" asks the graffiti, the red ink bleeding down the wall. "What is our utopia?", I ask in return. In a preliminary attempt to give a clear outline to this imaginary collective purpose, perhaps our way out is to imagine that we will be able to build a radical and uncompromising attitude in defence of social, political and economic integration, based on tolerance, respect and solidarity towards the differences that define our society.


Neuroscience shows us that, from an evolutionary point of view, we tend to prefer what is familiar because familiarity makes us feel safe.[6] In this sense, our brains have been programmed so that the new, the unknown, the unfamiliar - which may or may not represent danger - trigger warning signals. In urban centers, where the large majority of the population live, we must reprogram ourselves to tame this atavistic reflex: either we learn to live with our differences or we will be doomed to our self-destruction as a society. After all, are we rational animals or not? To quote Angela Davis' famous motto: "It's not enough not to be racist, we have to be anti-racist." In other words, it's not enough to criticize inequalities, we have to actively fight them. In cities, we must fight for the creation of urban spaces that (a) foster healthy environments and promote public safety, and that (b) induce, foster and stimulate (the redundancy here is purposeful) the coexistence of differences through social and economic integration, and especially through quality public education.


"What is strange to us today will be familiar tomorrow," said Mayor Richard J. Daley, in riposte to the horror, repulsion and criticism that the installation of Picasso's monumental cubist sculpture, 15 meters high and 162 tons of steel, sparked among Chicago’s conservatives. These were truly visionary words: in the following years the public embraced the work in such a way that its presence triggered the installation of what is now one of the largest collections of public sculptures in the world, with works by Chagall, Miró, Dubuffet, Calder, Noguchi, Moore, among so many other universal masters, spread throughout the city, opening the way for other manifestations of urban art.


Can the transition from strangeness to familiarity, and from familiarity to affection, which has taken place in art, extend to people? Perhaps so, but with more time. Even Chicago, which has achieved this great feat in public art, is far from placating racial and class prejudice. Either way, history will tell, and this must be the Illuminist vote, of possible light for a civilization, or at least for a certain civility, at one time local and global. We have some hope here. You see how, in three generations, the perception of same sex relationships and gender equality has changed in Brazil. Even in the midst of the terrible setbacks that we are now experiencing, and although full acceptance, or even tolerance, has not been achieved, it is undeniable that progress has been made.


Returning to Brazil and China, it is indeed sad to see that in both countries cities are advancing with urban and real estate development programs that deepen territorial segregation. The creation of urban spaces, mainly driven by private forces in both cases, follows the natural rise in land prices dictated by markets, which has forced lower income people out of cities into suburban regions, increasingly farther from their workplaces.


Unfortunately, Chinese cities today reflect the growing income inequality across China, which represents a large departure from the situation of the 1970s. In big cities, the more you move to the outskirts, the less beauty and less wealth there is. What’s more, urban sprawl is growing exponentially. Beijing, for example, which expands around peripheral rings, already extends beyond its sixth ring. China has lost a great opportunity in this regard: that of making poverty reduction also lead to greater socio-territorial integration.


The social cohesion of a country will increasingly depend on its capacity to develop cities with large public spaces and neighbourhoods that promote the cohabitation of people from different income groups, ethnic groups, beliefs, and behaviours. This agenda may become a priority in China as well, as increasing inequality might engender social tension. Many critics of the Chinese urbanization style, which include Chinese nationals like the award-winning architect Wang Shu, have pointed to the segmentation of space and the loss of places for cohabitation and spontaneous social contact.


But this is the great difference between Brazilian and Chinese cities: while chaos invades order here, order invades chaos there. In both cases we see a process of strong socio-spatial segmentation, but China advances rapidly in expanding the infrastructure and connectivity of its cities. The subway networks of Shanghai and Beijing, for example, now total over 1,300 km, while in Brazil, the two subway systems of São Paulo and Rio combined make up a mere 159 km. Here, we are witnessing the growing presence of militias, organized crime and homelessness in cities. In China, cities are safer and are connected by high-speed trains, whose network already exceeds 29,000 km.


I end this section by resuming the "maybe" I started it with. Brazil will only be viable if and only if we are able to recover a minimum set of values ​​that guide us and make us see ourselves as a collectivity united around a common destiny. Perhaps the possible way out for us involves a set of initiatives aimed at building better cities, which, in objective terms, would work as an intense and intelligent distributive policy, through the massive generation of urban collective goods and services.


Such a policy must start from a consensus, still to be built, that a better city will generate productivity gains, which is an essential condition for a more competitive integration in the new economy. There is no efficiency when large proportions of workers spend hours in traffic daily. Therefore, behavioral change needs to be accompanied by a reorganization of the built space, actively involving market and societal forces, from the bottom up, as well as government initiatives, agreed upon from the top down, based on initiatives that I will comment on the next section.


Maybe we can, but it won't be easy. It will require us to take proactive action in these two domains associated with the general question of the differences we address here: the construction of tolerance, respect and solidarity - overcoming atavisms - and the permanent promotion of economic inclusion.[7] Not through paternalistic distribution mechanisms, but through the construction, I repeat, of better cities, through the massive distribution of urban public goods and services. Using creativity, we will not lack mechanisms that promote the reproduction of private capital in public enterprises aimed at reducing inequality, notably socio-spatial segregation.


iii. The State apparatus as a factor of State transformation (“ top down”)

In the domestic sphere, the factors of transformation of the state that prevailed in China and Brazil in the 70s and 80s also differed. In China, in 1978, the urgent imperative was to structure the market after the economic disaster of full nationalization. In 1988 in Brazil, the urgency was to rebuild democracy after the trauma of the dictatorship period. In China, the state opened the door to free market agents. In Brazil, the state opened itself up to the plurality of forces in politics and to the voices of organized society.

The partial result of these two processes is known by all: in China, in four decades of reform, there was a marked strengthening of political and economic power. In Brazil, we have witnessed the opposite: a stagnation in labor productivity rates, and a weakening of the state, with a notorious exception namely in agribusiness and certain segments of the energy industry. Economic stagnation and the weakening of the state were symbiotic processes marked by the capture of public policies, the advancement of organized crime and militias, and, of course, as we know, by a pathological increase in corruption.


Obviously, corruption is not unique to Brazil. It also leaves deep scars in China, and has been the focus of a vigorous campaign led by the nation’s supreme leader. This has resulted in the indictment of more than 1.5 million high-ranking officers, among which feature army generals and influential members of the Party Central Committee. However, in contrast to Brazil, China’s wealth creation managed to consistently pull hundreds of millions of people over the poverty line. More than 80% of the population, the equivalent of approximately four Brazils, have crossed over that line in the past 40 years. As we have seen, the fight against corruption in Brazil has also gained ground, with the consolidation of several important tools, that were, unfortunately, not always used in a lawful and impersonal manner.


"What about the voice of the people?", eagerly ask China’s staunch critics. It is worth remembering that social power in China has always made itself heard throughout its thousand-year history, invariably in the form of protests, rebellions, and wars. Never in China's history has the voice of the people been channeled through institutions that guaranteed popular assent on the great issues of governance in the country. Not even in the periods following the Republican (1912) and Communist (1949) revolutions was it possible to build democratic structures of wider participation that extended beyond the revolutionary body itself.


Social power in China has therefore remained, over the last 40 years, where it has always been: "buffered" and, as always, ready to manifest or explode when necessary. The central power understands this reality better than anyone. During the Tang Dynasty, for example, the Anshi Rebellion (756-763) led to the death of an astonishing 36 million people,[8] a world record of horror that would only be surpassed 1,200 years later during World War II. And the list of Chinese rebellions, aside from being thousands of years old, is extensive and its scale is commonly measured in the millions of casualties.


From a cynical perspective, a possible simplistic explanation is that corruption has spread enormously, both here and there, but the wealth generation in China has been of such magnitude that it has been able to maintain the legitimacy of the Communist Party. From talking to local friends and family, I learned that democracy and its value are alien to the vast majority of the Chinese population. The formulas of governance built up over millennia have always been authoritarian in nature, and attempts at openness or flexibility have invariably resulted in chaos.


In Brazil today, we cannot accept any tolerance towards any signs of authoritarianism. Having said that, and remaining aware of the countless imperfections and weaknesses of Western democracies, we must avoid a judgmental, blindly critical stance towards the formulas of governance in China. After all, they are the holders of the most continuous and populous civilization on the planet; they are the ones who, in four decades, have lifted 800 million people above the poverty line.


Although in our Western eyes a deficit of democracy prevails in China, the country has undoubtedly generated a surplus of merit for the extraordinary social achievements it has achieved in such a short time. Logically, this account is not unambiguous, nor can it be used as a justification for authoritarian formulas in Brazil. But it is important to keep in mind that the legitimacy of a government or a party certainly rests on a broad legacy of results that, although multifaceted, enter into a linear or non-linear evaluation by the population.


Taking as a premise the idea that the organization of societies has always obeyed the action and interaction between market, government, and societal forces, the reform of the state in China implemented from 1978 onwards is absolutely unprecedented. This reform required a rebalancing of economic, political, and social forces, qualitatively different from the readjustments promoted by the three revolutions that defined the formation of contemporary states: the French Revolution (1789), the American Revolution (1776), and the Russian Revolution (1917). In Giovanni Arrighi's characterization, it is a question of implanting, in "the socialism with Chinese characteristics" (1978), not a market economy, but an economy with a market,[9] after the failed attempt to completely suppress the capitalist mode of production in the Chinese Revolution of 1949.

Finally, I’d like to address a final remark to the transformative elements originating from the state itself known as veto points.[10] Veto points are defined as the set of situations in bureaucracies in which collective choices (decisions, public or private projects, bills, proposals for changes in the status quo, etc.) can be obstructed. Veto points are at once necessary and perverse. Necessary because in some way they constitute vectors of social and/or technical control of projects emanating from political or economic power. Perverse, because, as advocates of the minimum state argue, every veto point, in the hands of veto agents, becomes easily captured by the shady interests of public or private agents.

Many known experiences of structuring complex projects demonstrate that the Brazilian State, in the general effort to institutionalize democracy, has created in its different spheres of power a sea of veto points that condemn us to inefficiency and immobility. Inspection bodies quickly became centers of fundraising for political or private purposes. Public agencies were captured by companies or parties, undermining the necessary independence of these institutions. Even development banks have been the object of this process through decades and different governments. Public debates, in turn, are often captured by pressure groups that do not necessarily represent the public interest.


To make matters worse, in addition to the slowness and uncertainty that characterize these processes, each decision is adopted diachronically, one after the other. Any project, whether infrastructural, environmental or real estate, needs to be submitted to different counters. We do not have a one-stop shop that could examine in a synchronic way all the variables of a certain project. For example, a project of urban intervention of a certain complexity in São Paulo may, in case of success, take more than 5 years for approval, until it goes through all the approval instances. Finally, perhaps the problem is not exactly the existence of "veto points", but their lack of coordination, and their capture by individuals and corporations more interested in raising funds (whether for corruption or not), than the public interest.


Let us remember that the modelling of any infrastructure project requires technical knowledge that is usually not available within the public machine in Brazil, given the insufficient human and material resources in the different spheres of government. Such insufficiency of the State also contributes to the development of incestuous (or at least conflicting) relations between the public and private sectors in the concession and infrastructure sector. We have seen improvements in the regulatory framework in recent decades, but we are still falling far short of what is desirable.[11] Either we make the contracting of competent projects on the market easier (as preferred by those who are more liberal) or we provide the State with qualified personnel to do so (as desired by the more statist ones). Regardless of your preference (more liberal or more statist), the fundamental component is to make it happen and try to catch up, catalyzing the project discussion process with the stakeholders: the market forces and the population (the benefited portion, and also those who will be negatively affected).


The reader can probably infer that in a powerful and centralizing state like China, the number of veto points is reduced. In fact it is. Large-scale projects are decided quickly, and the Council of State and various government bodies at the provincial and municipal levels have systematically sought to integrate government approval bodies into a unified approval system in order to shorten approval times.


It would be simplistic and reductionist to characterize the differences between China and Brazil as an opposition between technocracy and democracy. It is fair to say, however, that China might make even better decisions if it developed a more diversified system in order to capture opinions and local knowledge of its stakeholders, which is precious information in major projects. On the other hand, we would certainly gain in efficiency if we look into how China has managed to drastically reduce approval deadlines, increasing the technological density in the public administration and unifying processes that run diachronically in a single synchronic flow.


If we want to reduce inequality and exclusion by promoting social inclusion through the provision of better collective public goods (I insist because this is my favorite thesis), we urgently need to find formulas to provide the state and the market with the conditions that allow for infrastructure and housing projects to be completed more quickly and with higher quality. Let us move away from the slowness in the construction of our subways. And the horrors of the Minha Casa Minha Vida project.[12]


 iv. Brazil in the world

"In the 19th century, the world became European. In the 20th century, it was Americanized. The 21st century will be Asian," Parag Khanna tells me on the phone, in a statement that would later be used in the launch of his book, The Future is Asian, published last year.[13] We barely acceded to the West, I thought, and the center of gravity of the international system moves to the East. Have we, objectively, been looking for a strategic positioning vis-à-vis the this ongoing power shift that occurs at the same time as we experience a deep technological paradigm change?

I do not believe so. One look at the diplomatic, entrepreneurial, academic, and cultural movements in Brazil over the last few decades is enough to see that we fall far short of what we should and could be doing.


At the turn of the 19th century, the legendary Baron of Rio Branco, faced with the rise of the United States as a great power and witnessing the spread of the technologies produced by the Second Industrial Revolution, reoriented Brazilian foreign policy. Despite being a great admirer of European culture, he chose to move away from the centrality that diplomacy at the time attributed to Europe and favored instead a rapprochement with the emerging power of the North. The great transformations that Brazilian society underwent at the time — the end of slavery, the success of the coffee trade, the accumulation of capital leading to our late industrialization, and the transition from monarchy to republic — paved the way for the construction of a new identity, that of a modern Brazil.


The Baron was able to pay attention to these great domestic and international changes.[14] He forged a policy that sought to consolidate Brazil's image after the regime change, showing the world that the newly established Republic would be capable of occupying a space of power among the great nations. His work, consolidating the international recognition of Brazil, was so admired that the Baron became a national hero. His funeral in 1912 was attended by an estimated 300,000 people, an event so unprecedented that it led to the postponement of the official Carnival festivities.[15]


Brazil’s entry into the 21st century was marked by a historical event of even deeper transformation, this time having China, as we have seen, at the forefront, in the simultaneous expansion of the technological frontiers of the Third and Fourth Industrial Revolutions. But in this transition, during the presidential mandates of Sarney, Collor/Itamar, FHC, Lula and Dilma/Temer, we have failed to detect the vertiginous shift of world power to China and, as a consequence, we did not formulate policies and strategies commensurate with this historic event in order to leverage real mutual interests.


The current Brazilian president and his self-declared "trumpist" foreign minister aggravated the Sino-Brazilian relationship. From a respectful dialogue, albeit uninspired, we moved, in the Brazilian side, towards a utilitarian and narrow-minded policy, devoid of civilizing values that the two countries certainly desire. China was attacked during the presidential campaign, and the efforts to make amends (or rather, the attempts, because the Chinese were taken to feel suspicious) came too late, so timid and evasively that not even the presidential visit to Beijing in November 2019 managed to fix it. "The big meeting here was commercial, politics is done on a case by case basis," President Bolsonaro said after meeting his Chinese counterpart. To approach a political relationship with the greatest emerging power on the planet "on a case by case basis" seems to be, to say the least, outrageous. Something that needs to be urgently corrected.


Anyway, let's face it: historically we've been short-sighted, mediocre, small. And the situation has worsened under Bolsonaro. We must do everything, especially with the leaders of the National Congress, in order to avoid making things worse. There could be no greater mistake than to think of foreign relations with China, one of the candidates to superpower of the century, on a "case by case" basis. A bilateral policy with a capital "P" should have as its agenda reciprocal and permanent strategic interests, and the adoption of values and principles that correspond to the real and concrete needs of both countries.


In terms of objective interests, nothing is more urgent for China than to diminish its vulnerability in the two sectors in which Brazil has stood out: food and energy. It seems logical, therefore, that the issues associated with food and energy security in China could be part of a high level priority and strategic agenda involving the two countries.[16]


China has been the largest buyer of rural land in the world. For obvious reasons: each earthling needs 0.22 hectares to feed itself for one year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).[17] Each Chinese citizen has only 0.09 hectares of arable land in the country, which means that the government and officials are acting directly for the purchase of land abroad. For this reason, China is today the largest foreign owner of non-urban areas in the United States and Australia; and it is probably also the largest landowner in Africa.


In Brazil, China, at least officially, is not a major land buyer, given our restrictions on foreign ownership of land. However, in practice, there are probably Chinese acquisitions in Brazil through contractual mechanisms that obfuscate them in the contract. In other words, as these supposedly private transactions involving remote Chinese buyers advance, we lose the chance to negotiate the conditions for a desirable presence of Chinese investment in Brazilian agriculture. We can certainly conceive of different formulas for Chinese capital to be allocated to agriculture and cattle raising, with a focus on China's food security, without risks to our sovereignty over the territory. Not to act in this sense (leaving the "market" to resolve the question) is silly, to say the least.


Our pre-salt oil deposits are another topic of Chinese interest and, in the same vein, should be the subject of bilateral, politically managed negotiations. Our oil wealth can and should be negotiated from the perspective of partnerships that represent broader Brazilian interest. Pre-salt blocks are offered at auctions, but given the legal and political uncertainties surrounding the regulatory environment here, China’s participation in the last round of bidding last November was merely symbolic. Their presence came in response to a request – some would say a plea - from the current government for Chinese state-owned companies to attend. It would be much better to negotiate a strategic partnership of co-participation in the exploitation and development of our oil potential, in a government-to-government negotiation in which Brazilian interests (and Chinese counter-offers) could be put on the negotiating table.

History shows that no nation has been successful in every area, and success in one aspect is very often linked to failure in another. China's resounding success coincidentally presents vulnerabilities in these two sectors where Brazil is strong: agriculture and oil. The search for a truly strategic partnership must take this complementarity into account.


Of course, such a change of course in foreign policy presupposes that both Brazil and China be willing to engage. To what extent would the Chinese actually be interested in the idea? To what extent do we overestimate our potential to reduce Chinese foreign dependency on food and energy? What will our comparative, economic and strategic value be in relation to the other cards that the Chinese may play (both internal, such as the renewable energy sources they develop, and external, from other partners)?


Faced with such questions, vigorous diplomatic action will be the only movement capable of bringing us clear answers. In this case, diplomatic action – if well-articulated – should involve elements of quantitative and economic evaluation, but also qualitative aspects associated with the fundamental elements of negotiation. Internally, there should be a genuine assessment of our capacity to unify sector interests on a single front, based on broad practical and non-bureaucratic coordination.


This is not an ordinary, conventional task. Nor is it a policy that can be formulated behind closed doors. It will require the involvement of the National Congress, the federation units and qualified representatives of the sectors that generate high economic and social value, especially the sectors associated with the infrastructure of cities necessary for spearheading the environment of the new economy. The objective of this effort should be to obtain a maximum common denominator for an integrated position at a negotiating table with China.


The extreme and growing asymmetry of power between China and Brazil stacks the odds against us. In our favor, in addition to our advantages in the agricultural and energy sectors, are the competitiveness of other sectors, namely the mineral industry and, above all, the size of our consumer market. That is the central motivation of this essay: the vision that our urban centers and our interest in building better cities and urban infrastructure may represent targets of Chinese interest for the destination of investments, services, and products.


Of course, in a possible effort to build a more substantive common agenda, the bilateral China-Brazil relationship cannot reproduce the terms of a neo-colonialist relationship. That is, we are not interested in just exporting food and oil; it is important to build a partnership that will lead us to re-diversify Brazil's production within the framework of the so-called Industry 4.0.


Needless to say, in this context we will have much to learn and gain from a greater interaction with 

China as long as we can cast a sober, humble, and depolarized analytical gaze over it, detached from the fragile theoretical certainties to which we are ardently attached. This is, in fact, the great lesson and example that contemporary China sets for the world: the capacity to learn from one's own mistakes and successes and those of others; the competence to understand that neither liberalism nor socialism in their pure forms would open the way for its socioeconomic development; the intelligence to find collectively, from its ethos, a path of prosperity, without automatic recourse to a single school of economic or political thought.


In terms of reforms originating within the state, China in its own way has created its own theoretical mosaic and specific practices in policy making. It has added the importance of the markets it has observed in liberal countries; the industrial development techniques of Japan and the Asian Tigers; the management of territorial integrity from the mistakes made by the former Soviet Union; the control of financial regulation and monetary and fiscal policies from the different shocks faced by the global economy in the 1970s, 1990s, and the subprime crisis; the modalities of technological innovation in the Silicon Valley; and, finally, let us not forget, the lessons of Lenin's aborted New Economic Policy (NEP), which proposed the combination of elements of capitalism in the socialist program of the USSR, something that young Deng had absorbed in his studies in Moscow.[18] The ingredients are diverse and known, but the dosage of each element is part of a formula that is Chinese, and that only applies to China.


As a worldly observer of life, I always resort to the image of the tripod formed by markets, governments, and society, to which I alluded above. This image of the tripod, of the necessary balance between economic, political and social powers, seems very powerful to me, since these are primordial and permanent forces. They are linked to the origins and evolution of societies and continuously present themselves as the main agents in the history of civilizations. They are irreducible categories of power in the sense that they cannot be eliminated. Past experiences, since ancient times, show that radical attempts to suppress the market, the state, or popular expression always generate instabilities, with tragic consequences,


From this point of view, what is worth noting from China's reformist example is how an absolutely centralized government that calls itself socialist was able to free market forces and agents, managing to establish an unprecedented balance in the relations between political power and economic power and, from this new balance, pave the way toward a new international integration.


And in the realms of "bottom up" transformations of the state, of a popular nature, could China - this imperial colossus with a one-party government and a hyper-homogeneous population - help us with anything? Do they have anything to teach us Brazilians, who, like a negative mirror of China, seek to strengthen the democratic plurality from our ethnic diversity?


Certainly, the answer is yes; but this categorically affirmative answer does constitute a curious paradox.


Max Weber thought that a certain mode of production was the result of an ethic, of an ideology, of the ethos of a people.[19] Weber's reasoning is therefore diametrically opposed to that of Marx, for whom the infrastructure - the forces of production, the economic base of society - is actually the producer of ideologies, of the state, religions, culture and arts, and of the media.[20] Consequently, from the Weberian perspective, a certain mode of production can only be implanted in a society if an ethic compatible with that mode of production is previously established in the social body. Along these lines, in the cases of China, Japan and South Korea, it would have been Confucian ethics that allowed the adoption of a productive order mirrored on the West.[21] In parallel, it would have been Protestant Puritanism that gave rise to the establishment of modern capitalism in Europe.


If we adopt Weber's approach as a reference, we can then ask whether Brazilian society is effectively endowed with a minimum set of common values that will provide a path of prosperity and social justice for the 21st century. Or, in other words, taking our ethos as a starting point, what would be the economic model, or the mode of production, consistent with the Brazilian soul, that would bring us prosperity and social justice without violating our essence as a people? Considering the values that make up our most fundamental collective identity, would it be possible for us to imagine a national project at this time of profound change in the technological paradigm? If so, on what economic basis and with what partnerships?


On a set of completely incomparable metrics, perhaps the Brazilian equivalent of the Chinese Confucian ethos is represented by the values of joy, detachment, irreverence, diversity, improvisation, miscegenation, and spontaneous celebration of life that the Brazilian soul carries. Such values represent a true counterpoint to Confucianism which is constituted, in a gross simplification, by a diverse set of principles and values such as benevolence, justice, reverence, knowledge, and trust. This counterpoint reveals two great contrasts.


The first has to do with the striking differences between the very nature of each set of values. I do not wish to linger on this point. It is enough to think that Confucianism has, as its pillars, Apollonian values such as benevolence and reverence, while Brazilianness has joy and detachment – Dionysian traits – as elements of social mainstay. There is no judgment here; just a realization that what we may call the collective plenitude of each nation takes place on the basis of values that are quite distinct from each other.


The second contrast is equally sharp, but here a comparative judgment is inevitably needed. While Confucianism is a mature and consolidated doctrine, the Brazilian ethos is still in its formative stages; young, unstable, and fragile. Confucianism has imposed itself as a canon that has become sedimented over centuries and dynasties, and has even spread over vast territories that extend far beyond China. The identity values of Brazil – our history, habits, customs, behavior and ideals – are not yet a force binding our collectivity.


And this is perhaps the great drama, dilemma, and challenge ahead of us: the beauty and power of the Brazilian ethos is our diversity. Yet this diversity is threatened by multiple and contradictory forces: the obduracy of racism and different forms of discrimination, the social fights for legitimizing and recognizing identities (necessary and legitimate but a potential cause of fragmentation), the increase of inequality and its territorial expression – the marked socio-spatial segregation in cities.


What could China teach us so that these values could be consolidated as great ideals to be effectively matured and established? Will we be able to unite around our diversity? Will we be able to strengthen our cohesion as a people and find a path to prosperity? Or will we become fragmented, deepening the estrangement of different peoples, generating a picture of chronic anomy?


Perhaps the greatest lesson of these Chinese reforms is this: there is no contradiction between Weber and Marx. The infrastructure does, in fact, produce the values, principles, and culture of a civilization; at the same time the ethos of a people is what defines the possible mode of production that can be established in a country.


To what extent do individual freedom and democratic processes "slow down" development? This question is often discussed when considering the mismatch between the economic and social advances of China, which is more homogeneous and dirigiste, and India, which is more diverse and democratic. The question is also applicable to Brazil, where it is imperative that the principles of democracy be strengthened, never the other way around.


Would it not be worthwhile to seek a real rapprochement with China, starting from a profound reordering of our foreign policy? As we have seen, on a practical level, we have some surplus power that interests China in a structural way, in the agricultural and energy sectors. For Brazil, it is important to explore how the technological tools and methodologies available today in China can be useful to us in facing the challenges associated with the strengthening of our ethos: inequality and intolerance. At the same time, the Brazilian State, and its system of representation and relations with the private sector demand urgent restructuring.


This is not about building an idealized image of China or dreaming of an alliance of a salvationist nature. China still has several limitations in its ability to influence the international system through the sophisticated instruments of soft power, understood as the power to mold or motivate the behaviors of others through values, culture, and lifestyle. The strength of ethnic homogeneity and the Confucianist amalgam favor internal cohesion, but such strength is not as powerful outside China, and this complicates China's organic presence and ability to act in the international sphere.


Of course, criticisms coming from the West and even from Brazil abound. Liberals claim that this is state capitalism, excessively interventionist, which will later suffocate innovation. Pro-democracy activists criticize the omnipresence of a single party and the control of the media. Environmentalists warn of the enormous environmental impact brought about by China's growth. Radical egalitarians will say that Chinese success is highly concentrated. Demonstrators protest against the treatment of minorities. From the perspective of universalist values, there are grounds in all these criticisms that cannot be overlooked. However, as mentioned earlier, the power and legitimacy of a government are always multifaceted.

In more conservative circles, when I confide my concern about the increase of inequality in China, the reaction comes automatically: "Better to have both rich and poor than just a sea of poor people”. I count up to ten not to shoot straight from the hip. By the time I am ready to say something I have usually lost the opportunity to respond. I then think to myself that we must look respectfully upon a country that has managed to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in just a few decades.

And as a counterpoint, in the advanced economies of the West, despite the great promises that the new technological paradigm unveils in all areas of knowledge, it is disheartening to see that, in the political realm, new technologies have been more frequently employed for dystopian purposes. Democracies in crisis of representation are deaf to the abundant inputs of popular participation. The parties have owners, are closed off from the people and open up to corporate power, both during elections and in policymaking.

Cities, totally blind to the new spatial planning possibilities given by big data solutions, expand tainted by real estate products that do not conform to a healthy urban fabric, increasing social segregation and the demand for infrastructure with high environmental costs. Markets and governments forget that cities are a great source of greenhouse gas emissions, which makes a transition to a sustainable urban organization increasingly urgent. In the digital world, populations have been captured by the fabrication of fake news and mechanisms that, by introducing filters of confirmatory bias, deepen polarization and spread hatred.


In my final reflections, I return to the topic of the relationship with China, outlining an analogy for what we could aim for in this partnership: that, in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Brazil may be to China what China was to the United States in the context of the Third Industrial Revolution. In practical terms, this would signify a rapprochement with China, with Chinese investment in cities, infrastructure, and urban technologies at its core. This relationship based on common interests would put us on the path of Industry 4.0 and social inclusion by providing massive urban collective goods.


There is no other economic domain in which market failure and government failure are more concrete and with such negative effects than that of rising land prices in cities. Cities are the habitat of the the largest portion of our population, which, as a result of this double failure, is fragmented in ghettos, and increasingly dominated by resentment and social hatred.


Who knows then, if the central problem is not inequality but exclusion? There might be a third way that will produce wealth without generating so much exclusion and more inequality? Or that provides more inclusion with equality without producing poverty? Could it be that, believing that the truth is somewhere in the middle, a policy of inclusion through the massive distribution of urban collective goods could constitute the doctrinal convergence between capitalism and socialism, between neoliberalism and neo-keynesianism?


Brazil embraced the First and Second Industrial Revolutions very late in the game. It was precariously linked to the Third and today runs the risk of being far on the fringes of the Fourth, as a passive consumer, without a relevant role in the processes of innovation and production of goods and services in the knowledge economy. There is no more time to waste.


Power is shifting quickly. It is not for us to make a Manichean judgement of the realities that arise in different historical-cultural contexts. A judicious and ideologically removed observation of the world is instead necessary, and always with eyes wide opened to our wider collective interests.


The "trade" war between the United States and China today presents characteristics of a structural conflict of a permanent and comprehensive nature, scalable to other areas of international life.[22] And in this context, China is once again drawing closer to Russia. Let us remember that the original creation of the People's Republic of China was historically inspired and supported by Soviet Russia, and the Sino-Russian rapprochement today seems to be taking the shape of an unprecedented, long-term strategic alliance.

Two aspects stand out in the context of this great dispute. On the one hand, the U.S. is our competitor in the sectors where we present our main comparative advantages, especially agricultural products and energy. On the other hand, the potential opportunities that Washington could offer us, in the diplomatic sphere, are limited to a greater or lesser commercial openness (and still with great limitations imposed by Congress), in a negotiation that would not, therefore, contemplate the allocation of investments in sectors that interest us, a domain in which, inversely, Chinese diplomacy moves on a large scale and with ample freedom.


So what is better for Brazil? An adherence to the consolidated Washington Consensus or to the emerging Beijing Consensus?[23]


For Brazil, it is time to adopt strategic state decisions. A special collaborative partnership with China, of variable geometry, without a priori exclusions of partners, always open to new opportunities, will (a) allow for a better integration of Brazil in the paradigm of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, (b) encourage and support the reform of the State, both in terms of the necessary rebalancing between political power and economic power, as well as the availability of technological tools applicable to public management, and (c) inspire us, by its example, in the search for our identity and ethos, without imitations.


Who among us would be able to seek a new international integration, to guarantee better access to the benefits of the new technological paradigm, to reform the State by establishing a new balance between market and government forces and, above all, to promote social cohesion? Do we have leaders able to step up to this great movement? Such leadership will only exist if it comes above any ethnic or partisan color, duly representing the black majority of the country, leading us to a great national conciliation and, who knows, to the construction of a long term partnership with China. As soon as possible...


P.S. ... before the axis of power shifts toward an alliance between Beijing, Moscow and Delhi, having Russia as the major provider of agricultural products and energy to the two largest population giants on the planet. Since BRICS is nothing more than a protocol fable today, the CRI would remain. In this sense, turning the BRICS into something effective is therefore a matter of permanent high interest for all of us.

* Philip Yang, entrepreneur and urban activist, is the founder of Instituto URBEM. He holds a master in public administration degree from Harvard and graduated from diplomatic academies in Brazil and Switzerland. Yang served in the Brazilian embassies in Washington and Beijing between 1995 and 2001

[1] See The Oxford Handbook of Transformations of the State (OHTS), Eds. Stephan Leibfried, Evelyne Huber, Matthew Lange, Jonah D. Levy, Frank Nullmeier & John D. Stephens, 2015.

[2] In a more orthodox economic view, by releasing market forces, China merely returns to its "normal" condition of largest economy in the world since the 10th century, a position that was interrupted by the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. From this perspective, there would be no exceptionality in the current economic growth process, only a return to a supposed "normality".

[3] The ongoing coronavirus crisis, although serious and frightening, is taken here as a conjunctural event that should not affect the perplexity generated by Chinese reforms over the past four decades.

[4] PISA has been applied in China in four cities: Shanghai, Beijing, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Although it represents a partial sampling of the Chinese reality, it still gives a good idea of progress achieved in the country.

[5] The polarization of the debate today tends to minimize the role of culture and to impute to the political centralism of the Chinese Communist Party the virtues and vices of modern China. For an in-depth discussion see Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress, by Lawrence E. Harrison and Samuel Huntington (2001).

[6] Familiarity promotes the blurring of self and other in the neural representation of threat, by Lane Beckes, James A. Coan, Karen Hasselmo, in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, Volume 8, Issue 6 (2013).

[7] In O multiculturalismo e a dialética do universal e do particular, by Celso Frederico, Estudos Avançados vol.30 no.87 (2016), the author asks how different cultures can live together in the democratic rule of law. Estudos Avançados vol. 30 no.87 (2016)

[8] Figure cited in The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Steven Pinker, presented as the greatest atrocity in History.

[9] Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-first Century, by Giovanni Arrighi (2007).

[10] See Veto Points, Policy Preferences, and Bureaucratic Autonomy in Democratic Systems, by Thomas H. Hammond (1997).

[11] Seria possível um modelo de transparência na infraestrutura?, by Philip Yang, Nexo Jornal, 22.3.2019

[12] O que fazer do Minha Casa, Minha Vida, by Philip Yang, Folha de S. Paulo, 12.2.2019.

[13] The Future is Asian: Commerce, Conflict and Culture in the 21st Century, by Parag Khanna (2019).

[14] In the words of Rubens Ricupero, "Neither before nor after, has such a perfect figure-symbol of values and aspirations emerged that Brazilians imagine to correspond to the 'idea of Brazil'", in A diplomacia na construção do Brasil: 1750-2016 (2017).

[15] O dia em que adiaram o Carnaval: política externa e a construção do Brasil, by Luís Cláudio Villafañe G. Santos (2010).

[16] Evidently, besides agriculture and energy, Brazil has comparative advantages in other sectors, mining being perhaps the most obvious example. However, food and energy security are much more "visceral" topics of interest to the Chinese than mineral commodities.

[17] The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture, FAO (2010).

[18] Lenin’s NEP and Deng Xiaoping’s Economic Reform, by Wei Xiaoping, in: Rockmore T., Levine N. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Leninist Political Philosophy. Palgrave Macmillan, London (2018)

[19] Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, by Max Weber (1905).

[20] A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Karl Marx (1859)

[21] Why has Japan 'succeeded'? Western Technology and the Japanese Ethos, by Michio Morishima (1981)

[22]As I conclude this text, President Trump puts pressure on countries around the world to ban Huawei's entry into bids for the deployment of 5G technology. What will prevail in the world? Free market, managed trade, industrial policy or surrendered 'trumpism'?

[23] See The Beijing Consensus, by Joshua Cooper Ramo (2004) e Goodbye Washington Consensus, Hello Washington Confusion?, by Dani Rodrik (2006).

bottom of page