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  • The Pendulum

China Extends its Influence in Brazil

Blake Mauro

The National Flags of China (left) and Brazil (right)


Over the past two decades, China has stretched its reach far beyond its borders. China has become an increasingly powerful economic and security influence in Latin America, specifically in the continent’s largest country, Brazil.


Since 2000, China has heavily invested in Brazil's economy. In 2000, less than 2% of Brazil’s exports were received by the Chinese markets, but by 2009, China surpassed the US as Brazil’s largest trading partner. In 2005 alone, China invested over $75 billion in Brazil’s economy. In 2020, China accounted for over 32% of Brazil’s total trade, which amounted to over $67 billion dollars, more than triple the country’s second trading partner, according to a World Integrated Trade Solution report. Along with trade, China has spent billions of dollars on infrastructure projects such as shipping ports, electrical grids, and transportation in Brazil. In São Paulo, Brazil’s largest and richest city, which accounts for a third of the nation’s GDP, a Chinese-owned company is extending the metro.


China is also entangled in Brazil’s energy sector. Since 2010, the Chinese state-owned power company, State Grid, has spent billions of dollars on Brazil’s energy infrastructure. Between 2007 and 2020, China allocated $26.44 billion to Brazilian energy efforts. In 2019, in the Brazilian state of Parà, State Grid completed the construction of the fourth-largest hydroelectric dam in the world. In order to get that power to the population centers in the Sothern part of the country, they demolished the heart of the Amazon Rain Forest. Further, one of the longest power corridors in the world is located in Brazil but is owned, maintained, and operated by the Chinese government. The energy powerhouse runs for more than 1500 miles and supplies power to 22 million people.


Brazil is vital to China not only for economic and investment purposes but for natural initiatives as well. Brazil is rich with natural resources that China needs to supplement its massive growth. Brazil is the world's leading producer of tin, iron ore, and phosphate. It has large deposits of diamonds, manganese, chromium, copper, bauxite, and many other minerals. China has taken numerous ambitious actions to extract resources from Brazilian land. For instance, in 2010, the Wuhan Iron and Steel Company spent more than $5 billion on mining rights in Brazil. Additionally, in that same year, the Chinese state-owned oil company, Sinopec, spent more than $17 billion to acquire the rights to Brazil's oil deposits. China needs these resources to support its rapidly growing economy and population. Since opening its nation to free trade in 1979, China has become one of the world’s largest economies. Through 2018, China averaged a real annual gross domestic product (GDP) of 9.5%, a pace the World Bank described as “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.” Recently, China has become, on a purchasing power parity basis, the world’s largest economy. Additionally, China is not only growing economically and in terms of international influence, but the country’s population has also skyrocketed. Since 1980, China’s population has increased by more than 45%. China uses countries like Brazil, which are rich in natural resources, to meet its growing needs.


China also has a strong hold on Brazil’s media and broadcasting industry. China controls media outlets in Brazil such as “Xinhua” (the “People’s Daily”) & China Radio International which produce Communist Party propaganda. These networks deliver Portuguese-language content for a Brazilian audience as a means to bolster public support for China’s overwhelming presence in Brazil. Further, the parent company of CGTN China Media Group signed a memorandum of cooperation with Brazils’ Grupo Globo so that the largest media company in Brazil co-produces television and films with Chinese state media. By gaining influence in Brazil’s media, China has the ability to shape the attitudes of Brazilians to favor Chinese intervention in the nation.


China has embedded its money, resources, and influence throughout Brazil. Economic and military experts around the globe question the intentions of China’s actions in Latin America; many fear the extension of China’s power and influence into the Western Hemisphere.


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