Lula: China has become a great power by seeking common development

We are very pleased to reproduce the latest episode of the CGTN series Leaders Talk, featuring Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

President Lula spoke to CGTN’s Wang Guan on April 13 in Shanghai, at the start of his state visit to China, his fifth such visit and his first visit outside of the Americas since the start of his third presidential term on January 1. Whilst in Shanghai, Lula attended the inauguration of his successor as Brazilian President following his first two terms of office, and Workers’ Party (PT) comrade, Dilma Rousseff to head the New Development Bank (NDB), initiated by the BRICS grouping, becoming the first head of state to visit the bank, and also visited a research institute of the Chinese telecom company Huawei.

“The decision to create the NDB was a milestone in the joint action of emerging countries…The creation of this bank showed that the union of emerging countries is capable of generating relevant social and economic changes for the world,” Lula tweeted.

He went on to note that: “For the first time, a development bank with global reach was established without the participation of developed countries in its initial phase. It was free, therefore, from the shackles of conditionality imposed by traditional institutions on emerging economies.” 

In his interview with Wang Guan, throughout which he spoke with the candour and passion that befits a lifelong militant and fighter for the working class, Lula said that the aim of his then upcoming talks with his friend President Xi Jinping was to establish a strategic partnership between their two countries that could last for decades and which could cover many areas, besides the economy and trade, including science, technology, education and cooperation in space. 

He intended to build on the “extraordinary relationship” he had enjoyed with China during his first two terms. Referring to the significance of Dilma’s leadership of the NDB, he said that countries like Brazil and China did not need to trade in US dollars. They could use their own currencies or a unified one.

Explaining that the world had changed since 1945, Lula said that a new model of global governance was needed. To solve the Russia/Ukraine conflict, it was necessary to bring the countries that wanted peace together (what has elsewhere been described as a ‘peace club’), so that they could together come up with a proposal.

Fifty years ago, Lula continued, no one believed that China could become a great power. It had done so, not by inciting war, but by seeking common development. He was glad to see that China was investing in Africa and Latin America. In the wake of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, everyone agreed that the developing countries were in need of investment, but no country had actually delivered on this except for China.

Lula said he finds it admirable that China has achieved high-speed, leapfrog development whilst maintaining its ideology and party building. Lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty is not an easy task. Brazil had eliminated hunger by 2012, but now it had returned (thanks to the disastrous far-right presidency of Jair Bolsonaro). Brazil therefore needed to learn from China in a serious, friendly and humble way. There is no need to copy everything, but neither should one deny everything. 

Responding to his interviewer’s observation that Lula has a considerable following in China, the Brazilian leader spoke movingly about what motivated him. One of 12 children, eight of whom survived, he quit school to work as a street vendor at age 8 to help feed his family. “I will always remember where I come from. Being the president is not a profession. It is to represent the Brazilian people in exercising power. The reason I wanted to become the President of Brazil was to improve the lives of the poorest people. We must ensure that they have breakfast, lunch and dinner every day and jobs to support their families.”

The full interview is embedded below.

One thought on “Lula: China has become a great power by seeking common development”

  1. Let’s be real about Brazil and China: “Lula has signaled that multilateral fora are the best way to maximize gains from China. For instance, earlier this year he urged Uruguay not to negotiate a bilateral free trade agreement with China. Instead, the regional trade bloc Mercosur would be better able to negotiate more favorable terms with the world’s second largest economy, especially after Mercosur finishes a trade deal with the EU to boost leverage. Lula could potentially use that same approach through BRICS, counterbalancing China’s needs or proposals by building partnerships with India, Russia, and South Africa.
    He needs to attract more Chinese investment in renewable energy projects and boost exports to China’s large market, but he also needs to demonstrate to the Brazilian people that increased engagement with China won’t lead to deindustrialization, loss of local jobs to Chinese workers, or environmental degradation, as some local Brazilian critics have charged.” (The Diplomat, April 12)

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