Brazilian with a Chinese heart

Updated: 2014-07-21 06:01

By CHEN WEIHUA and BRUNA GAMA in Rio de Janeiro (China Daily USA)

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"His name is Carlos Tavares and he is a Brazilian with a Chinese heart," Chinese President Xi Jinping pronounced in his speech on July 16 before the Brazilian Congress.

The Chinese president was alluding to the career of Brazilian journalist Carlos Tavares, one of the greatest China specialists in Brazil.

Tavares is currently 90 years old and still fully at work in a profession that began in the early 1970s. He still follows the daily news about China and writes for Brazilian newspapers.

Brazilian with a Chinese heart

In the past 40 years, he has written hundreds of articles and nine books and on China, including Rise of China, China: Superpower of the XXI Century, China: What We Need to Know and China Returns to World's Leadership.

In an interview on Thursday with China Daily, Tavares said he was surprised and flattered by Xi's mention and highlighed the importance of the presidential visit to the relations between the two countries. "I was very happy," he said.

"I think President Xi Jinping's visit is very important. It will have a very big impact on the business sector. Unlike other heads of state who visit Brazil, Mr. Xi was received with great honors in Congress," he said.

In his speech before Congress, Xi said that Brazil was the first strategic partner of China among developing countries, and also the first nation in Latin America to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership with China.

"I attended the president's speech, and saw that he is well informed on the Brazilian economy, he is an intelligent man and perceives the problems we have in the areas of infrastructure and financing," Tavares said.

"I recently wrote an article on China as the first economic power," he said. "I talked about Brazil's problems. The Embassy of China must have read it and transmitted to the president."

Tavares said his relationship with China began in 1971 when he published his first article on China in the magazine Trade and Markets.

"I appreciate China and Chinese culture, and I have published nine books about the country which I've visited five times. This year I will publish my tenth book on China, and I would like to invite President Xi to write the preface," Tavares said.

Xi's visit to Brazil last week was his first since he took office. Xi participated in the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza and had a two-day State visit in Brasilia. The visit also marked the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Brazil and China.

"China-Brazil relations have flourished over the past years, but there is still a lot of room for improvement," Tavares said.

Among the announcements Xi made during his visit, Tavares underscored the creation of the new BRICS development bank, which will provide financial support for development, and China's willingness to participate in investment opportunities in the infrastructure of Brazil.

"This visit was impressive. It's very important that China is participating in Brazil's infrastructure such as railways and ports, and in Brazil's agricultural production, which the president referred to in his speech," he said.

The entire transportation sector in Brazil, Tavares believes, can benefit from more interchange with China and from Chinese investment. That is one reason why President Xi's visit to Brazil was so important, Tavares said.

"I read in a recent interview that he is interested in transportation and access to Brazilian ports, which really is a flaw of ours. Investing in transportation infrastructure would be important to both Brazil and China, which would see Brazilian grain and iron ore exports to them accelerate," he said. "I think it would be good for President Dilma Rousseff to attract Chinese companies to invest in transportation infrastructure, which is very outdated in Brazil."

Most of the exports were commodities. Although Brazil's role as a large commodities exporter gets a lot of criticism in the country, Tavares said he does not see a problem with it — on the contrary, he believes that Brazil could even increase its exports of commodities, by, for example, exporting more meat to China.

"There is no problem with exporting commodities," he said. "The US's largest exports to China are of soybeans, and they are the largest grain exporters in the world. Australia, a developed country, exports ore. Commodities generate jobs in agriculture, in transportation, ports, in several activities."

"Brazil is lucky to have 90 percent of its land usable for agriculture. I have no problems with Brazil being the world's barn; you are creating jobs. In manufactured products, you have a lot of competition, but exporting commodities is for those who can, and Brazil has a lot of usable area," he added.

Brazil can also diversify its exports to China out of the commodities area. The country already exports Embraer airplanes to China, but it can also sell other products like shoes, textiles and medicines, especially plant-based ones, he said.

In addition, Tavares believes Brazilians should learn more about China. Chinese affairs and culture remain a great mystery to Brazilians as they tend to get overlooked in school curriculums.

"We need to know more about China in Brazil. That is important. We need to teach Chinese affairs and culture, but that is not in the school curriculum. The Education Ministry should revise the curriculums of high schools and universities to include more Chinese culture and inventions," he said.

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