China-Brazil Trade Balance, and the Beginning of the End for the USA

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Not a terrible surprise, really. This image only graphs data from a few years ago, so I would remove the exclamation mark.

Both China Daily and CNN recently ran small articles about the growing trade between Brazil and China. It appears that while a conference on international education is happening in Brazil, Brazilians are in China to promote their agricultural products. Brazil exports a lot of food products, and China imports a lot. To continue to fuel Brazil’s growth, these exports are going to need to increase, and as China’s citizens become more affluent, they are going to want more and better foods. I’m not sure if Brazilian foods are going to be a hit with Chinese consumers, but if nothing else more primary materials like soybeans and sugar will certainly increase as consumption goes up on China. The CNN article mentions how Latin America needs to diversify it’s exports more and invest in it’s own industries so that it won’t be seriously affected by any slowing of Chinese growth. I wonder if this will end up being another situation similar to Spain’s, in which problems were left unfixed during boom years and now are a serious drag on the economy.

I found this small section at the end of the China Daily article particularly interesting:

China outstripped the US to become the largest exporter to Brazil this year. During the first 10 months, China’s exports to Brazil grew by 6.2 percent from a year earlier to $28.7 billion. Meanwhile, its annual imports from Brazil have declined 5.2 percent to $35.2 billion, according to official Brazilian data. Trade experts and analysts expect Brazil’s surplus with China to hit $7.5 billion this year.

China has surpassed the United States as Brazil’s largest trading partner. Reading things like this I find it hard to believe that there are still people in the global north who think that the American Age isn’t coming to and end. It certainly isn’t over yet (a quick glance at the UN Security Council, NATO, popular media around the world, fashion, or economies can tell you that), but I do think that the time we are in right now is the beginning of the end for American global dominance. There was a uni-polar moment, and now we are shifting into a new world, although I’m not sure if it will be multi-polar or bi-polar (This isn’t caused by Brazilian-Chinese trade, of couse. Such trade is only one result of an increasingly diversifying world). There are also some hard facts and numbers in that little excerpt, but I am curious as to how that compares with this expert from the CNN article:

Brazil’s trade surplus with China, for example, was $11.5 billion in 2011.

Are these trade surpluses annual flows, or is this the total stock? I just recently watched an MRUniversality video related to this, so it is fresh in my mind. Where do the reporters get these numbers from? Neither of the articles cited any source for the trade surplus numbers.

Studying abroad: Europe was the past, now are BRICs the future?

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I’ve set up a Google Alert so that I am notified whenever there is a news article containing both “China” and “Brazil.” I’m hoping that this will give me plenty of material to write about. The first article that has come up seems like a basic little summary of a fairly routine conference in Brazil, but it definitely relates to bigger trends in South-South relations. Titled Brazil, China cooperate on education, it is from the Xinhua English page. XinHua doesn’t have a fantastic reputation for high quality, hard hitting journalism (Eric Olander talks about this a lot on his excellent China in Africa Podcast), but a simple summary of the opening speech of a seminar seems like it would be hard to mess up. Although at roughly 160 words, this article is very short, there are two important concepts tied in here that I want to explore: World view, and student exchanges.

Addressing world view first, I think it is telling that “While developed economies are in decline” is included as a matter of fact. It is not a debatable position, it is not a tentative claim. It simple is. This seems very different from the view in the United States, in which people like much-derided Thomas Friedman (who at times seems to have the ear of all of liberal America) claim that this can be prevented with sufficient investment and innovation. I’m not positive, but I get the general impression that in Europe there is a vaguely similar feeling: Europe is going through a (very) rough patch, but in a decade things will be better and it will be back on top of the world again. I’m not sure about that idea, but I am sure that in the BRICs and other rising powers there is a very different feeling. The feeling in China seems to be that the 1900s were America’s century, and the 2000s will be China’s. Apparently this view is more or less shared by at least some people in Brazil, including the Brazilian Education Minister Aloizio Mercadante.

Science Without Borders

Secondly, I think that student exchanges specifically and educational exchange in general is a very important way for a country to build upon and to exploit it’s soft power. Speaking in my own case, it is very unlikely that I would have developed such an appreciation for and understanding of China had I not studied there. There is an increasing attempt by governments to get their students to study in BRIC countries (see Project Pengyou and the 100000 Strong Initiativefor the U.S.’s effort to get involved in this). The impression I get from the U.S. is that traditionally most students studied abroad in Europe, Australia, or other OECD places. (Does anybody know where to get some statistics about this?) Maybe Argentina if the student was really outrageous. Nowadays, however, the popularity of China is definitely rising rapidly as a study abroad destination, and I wouldn’t be surprised in other developing economies in Latin American, Asia, and Africa are also seeing an increase of European  and American visiting students. If nothing else, it saves the universities money: the cost of food an housing for one semester in Madrid or Strasbourg is a lot less than in Nanjing or Minas Gerais. So in general, I think that Dilma Rousseff made a great move in initiating the student exchange program, but I think that they shouldn’t just push STEM education, but also South-South language and cultural exchanges. What do you think, reader? Should Brazil delay South-South humanties-focused exchanges until after a base of STEM-focused students have established themselves, or should cultural and linguistic expertise also be important?