China just announced that Vice President Wang Qishan would, as the special envoy of President Xi Jinping, lead a Chinese delegation, to attend the inauguration ceremony of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, or Lula.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said
Vice President Wang Qishan’s visit to Brazil as President Xi Jinping’s special representative to attend the inauguration ceremony of President Lula fully reflects the great importance China attaches to Brazil and China-Brazil relations. It is believed that this visit will give a strong impetus to the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Brazil to advance to a higher level, better benefit the two countries and peoples, and make due contribution to maintaining regional and world peace and stability and promoting common prosperity.
After winning the election in October 2022, Lula will be sworn in on January 1, 2023, as the 39th president of Brazil, succeeding Jair Bolsonaro. Both the Chinese and U.S. Presidents quickly congratulated him.
I send my congratulations to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on his election to be the next president of Brazil following free, fair, and credible elections. I look forward to working together to continue the cooperation between our two countries in the months and years ahead.1:35 AM ∙ Oct 31, 2022513,117Likes59,641Retweets
In the South China Morning Post, Jacob Mardell, an analyst at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS), wrote
‘Old friend’ Lula’s election victory no guarantee of warm Brazil-China ties of yesteryear
Besides his popularity with Obama, Lula is known in Beijing as an “old friend”. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian expressed hopes that Lula would take the China-Brazil partnership to a “new level”. Lula put China at the top of his foreign policy agenda during his first two terms as president, framing his first trip to Beijing in 2004 as the most important foreign visit of his presidency.
He oversaw the intertwining of China and Brazil’s economies and designated China as a strategic ally in the fight to reform what he saw as an “international system marked by inequality”. Lula also helped create the BRICS grouping in 2006, combining the major emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and later South Africa…
But Lula’s China-friendly record could prove a false indication of things to come. Lula’s official platform repeats the foreign policy priorities of the president-elect’s first two terms, but the geopolitical landscape has shifted dramatically since Lula was last in office. The 2020s are a very different place to the 2000s, and Lula’s 2000s-era policies will be trickier to navigate in the current climate of US-China tensions…
On the campaign trail, Lula even repeated the China threat rhetoric from Bolsonaro’s 2018 campaign about China “buying” Brazil. Lula was in campaign mode at an industry confederation and thus was playing to the crowd, but his speech was a sign that the tone of the debate has changed since he was first in office…
In fact, there is a wealth of information on Lula’s thoughts on China, the U.S., BRICS, and Latin America. In June 2021, Lula gave an extensive interview with 李世默 Eric X. Li, the Chinese venture capitalist, political commentator, and founder of 观察者网 Guancha, which platformed the interview.
Before the full translation of the Chinese-language transcript below, where Eric X. Li didn’t actually say much. Here is a summary of Lula’s words:
- Lula said the United States government “participate(d) in the lawsuit against me,” which put him in prison to “destroy the regulations we had stipulated for supervising Brazilian oil companies” and prevent “Brazil (from) playing an increasingly important role on the world stage.”In other words, Lula said the U.S., having constantly interfered in Latin American politics, “fears losing its leading position as the world’s police.”Lula said, “that is exactly what I have rebelled against. Brazil is a sovereign state, and it has the right to decide its policies and economy and determine its international relations as China does. That’s why we cannot accept the roles the United States tries to impose on all human beings to become the world police.”Latin America can’t be born poor, and it should not be natural that every time a country in Latin America starts to grow, there’s a coup. And it is unacceptable that in every coup, people from America and American ambassadors would be involved.But he also clarified he sought no hostilities toward the U.S.I am not saying that we need to be unfriendly with the United States. We should maintain a good relationship with the U.S. And I want to maintain the same relationship with China, Russia, Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, and Malaysia.
- Lula found the power structure of the international community was stacked against the developing countries, and “the rich countries were not used to making room for less developed countries,” citing his experience from the 2009 G20 London Summit; the difficulty of “changing the rules of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank,” which turned out “very difficult because the power is in the hands of Europe and the US;” and even the International Olympic Committee.So the way the world is organized is truly absurd. For example, the IMF is a multilateral organization founded to solve problems among countries. But when a crisis takes place in rich countries, the IMF is of no importance. When it happened in a poor country, the IMF would interfere, just like what is happening in Argentina now.
- Lula called for reforming the United Nations Security Council and “BRICS and South-South cooperation to balance world geopolitics.” He is hopeful for BRICSI am ambitious that, either viewed from the business or financial perspective, BRICS, together with our developed bank and partnership between the universities made through the BRICS, could change human history and provide opportunities unavailable for developing countries in the past five hundred years. I believe Brazil would return with stronger power and help the BRICS Bank become an exemplar for other southern countries and a development bank for developing countries. That is exactly what we want.(the BRICS Bank is now known as the New Development Bank)
- Lula observed a return to governments of the left-wing across Latin America.….recovering from the things that happened in the past six or seven years in Latin America. Back then, massive loss and attrition to society occurred due to the increasing power of the right wings. And people gradually find that it is unworkable to practice politics through hatred, just like what is now happening in Brazil. Politics should be dealt with more peacefully and calmly.Luckily, the left-wing government has been in charge of Bolivia and Argentina. In Chile, people voted for the constitutional convention, and the right-wing government has gradually been marginalized. Now, we have seen what happened in Peru, and I believe that the same thing will happen in Brazil.
- Lula was apparently a big fan of China.I had once been to Shanghai and Beijing. Suffice it to say, the progress Chinese people have achieved in the last 20 years has been remarkable. And this was impossible without China’s political organization, competitiveness, culture, investment as well as scientific and technological knowledge. So I think China set an example for world development, and I hope other countries can learn from China so that we can be rich, strong, and gain more wealth and build a more humane world. I am very interested in China, and I want to keep in touch with the Communist Party of China, with many friends I have made during this time, and I also want to come to the headquarters of BRICS and maybe visit your office and see how this website (Guancha) has developed so much. I would also like to discuss the joint development of both countries, and you can be sure that I will be ready for that.Huawei is banned by the U.S. from entering the markets of other countries. That is unacceptable. This persecution of Chinese companies is unbelievable because American companies attempt to permeate into every corner of the world.Americans said that they were worried that Chinese people are helping Asian countries arm themselves and get militarily prepared, which is groundless. Just look at the U.S. military budget, and we will realize that they are in no political position to criticize anyone.it is very gratifying to see how China is developing. It’s great to see China take a significant place in the world economy and to see China take a place in world geopolitics. That’s what I want for China, that’s what I want for Brazil, and that’s what I want for South Africa, Nigeria, Argentina, and Mexico.
- Notably, Lula – in June 2021, about five months before the highly-contagious Omicron variant emerged – spoke highly of China’s response to Covid-19.
So I want to pay tribute to and congratulate those responsible governments. I want to congratulate the Chinese government, doctors, and its prevention system on their caring and protection for the Chinese people and their contributions to the successful treatment of COVID spreading nationwide.
For example, China could respond to coronavirus so quickly because it has a strong political party and a powerful government to control and command.
Eric Li: President Lula, it’s good to see you. Welcome to Guancha.
Lula: Hi, thank you for having me. Before the interview, I’d like to say hello to you, to the coordinator of the interview, Marco Fernández, to all the colleagues working on this interview, and to everyone watching our interview on Guancha. And I want to say to you that I am about to talk things through without inhibition in this interview. You can ask whatever you want. On those I know, I would say everything about it, and on those I don’t know, I could only say sorry.
Li: We’ve been reading the amazing story about a small town in Brazil called Serrana, which vaccinated a vast majority of people there. Please tell us about the story there.
[Pekingnology: two Wall Street Journal reports at the time:
Lula: I’ve already been vaccinated by CoronaVac (the Chinese Sinovac vaccine), and I’m in wonderful health now. I’ve received 2 doses of Chinese vaccines and hope to be fully immune.
We have a problem in Brazil, which is the irresponsibility of our government in dealing with the coronavirus. When the first human case was reported in China, and when it first appeared in Europe, Brazil could have taken precautions, set up a crisis committee, and prepared to take better care of the Brazilian people.
However, it turned out that our government merely treated it as the flu. They have been following the instructions of former U.S. President Donald Trump, provoking the Chinese people, blaming laboratories in China, and criticizing Chinese vaccines by saying it’s worthless. And they had not bought any vaccines for a long period.
When Brazil started buying vaccines, it had been paralyzed by this virus, and lots of people had been infected. Thus, Brazil is paying the price for its irresponsibility.
Now changes have taken place in Brazil. Some states are working in parallel with the federal government. I have followed the situation in Serrana from the media. This city decided to vaccinate all of its residents, and the doctors in this city accepted the decision. As far as I can see, this has achieved very good results.
Actually, it has been proved by science, by the world, and by many other more responsible governments in Europe and China that the best way to cope with the pandemic is social distancing. And vaccines came second. Otherwise, how come a major country like China, with more than 1.4 billion people, reported only 103 thousand cases, including 4674 deaths, whereas Brazil reported 17 million cases, including 491 thousand deaths? That more than 2,770 people died yesterday alone is a sign of irresponsibility.
So I want to pay tribute to and congratulate those responsible governments. I want to congratulate the Chinese government, doctors, and its prevention system on their caring and protection for the Chinese people and their contributions to the successful treatment of COVID spreading nationwide.
They have prevented the nationwide spread of the pandemic and avoided a massive spike in deaths occurring in China as the number reported in Brazil. So our country’s problem lies in the irresponsibility of our government as they play with fire at the critical moment of the pandemic.
Li: You are a very well-known figure in China. We have watched your career for a very long time and we all know the story of you being from a shoeshine boy to President and now from a prisoner to a free man. So, what was it like after being thrown into prison after being the president? What’s your life like in prison?
Lula: My family background is like millions of other Brazilians. I was born in a smallholder family in a very poor region in the northeastern part of Brazil. And since Sao Paulo was the industrial center and the most developed state in Brazil, I went there and learned to become a professional mechanic, and then I joined the labor union. At that time, I was fascinated by labor union politics but then I found that it failed to solve my problems. So, I decided to establish a political party to solve problems in Brazil through politics. After its establishment, relying on the support of the Brazilian people, I became the president of Brazil within just twenty years.
In 2006, I succeeded in the run for my second term as president. And here, I can proudly tell you and many other Chinese people as well that in Brazil, 36 million people were lifted out of poverty and about 40 million people have reached the criteria of the middle class after the implementation of the epochal social integration policy in Brazil. Throughout Brazilian history, it is our party that established the largest number of universities and it is our party that established the largest number of polytechnic schools more than the past years in history combined. We have increased the salary by 74% and created 22 million jobs when about 100 million people were unemployed in Europe. In other words, our plans are effective.
And then I left my office. The opinion poll conducted when I left my office showed that 87% of people were “favorable” or “very favorable”, 10% were “ordinary” and 3% were “unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” towards my presidency. I assume that this is the best feedback and the highest reward a president of a republic nation could obtain in many places around the world.
However, something called “Lawfare” was used as a weapon against me. In other words, it could be understood as a method to assign crime to people in politics by a judicial body. Brazilian media has made up the largest lie in the 500-year Brazilian history. No politician like me has encountered so many lies, false accusations, and attacks for four years in a row.
Later on, they decided to arrest me. I could have left Brazil for China, Cuba and many other countries around the world. But I was unwilling to leave Brazil and I wanted to stay in Brazil, for I was proven to be innocent and I wondered how they could inflict crime on me. How about now? Now, I am free and we proved that the judge who convicted me was biased and took the stance of convicting me out of a political position.
It has been proved that the Public Ministry (Public Prosecutor’s Office) was at the service of the United States Department of Justice, which intended to destroy the regulations we had stipulated for supervising Brazilian oil companies. As of 2007, we discovered the biggest oil field in the 21st century. This is a huge oil field, and we made a regulation to ensure the Brazilian people’s ownership of it.
Any oil company in the world, however, has never accepted this regulation, leading to their attempt to overthrow the Workers’ Party government, because we have become an important international player. We established the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the BRICS, and the IBSA Dialogue Forum. Therefore, we have maintained a much closer relationship with the world than ever before.
Brazil back then, together with China, Russia, and India, has gradually played an important role on the international stage. In other words, our party has become influential in politics. So, those who are against us felt the necessity to force the Workers’ Party out of the office and made up something to throw me into prison. Faced with all those lies accusing me of corruption, I was never once terrified, for I knew I was innocent. Here and now, I can assure you that I was never worried about those lies, and I slept better than those who judged and accused me. I hope one day those who once charged me could apologize for all the mistakes they made in the accusations against me. That’s the only thing important to me.
Now, I want to tell you that I am truly happy. Though 75 years old, I am still ambitious and vigorous in politics. I sincerely and truly hope to regain democracy for our country in the 2022 election.
Li: It’s an amazing and also a disturbing story, of course, hearing from you. What exactly has happened with your Department of Justice? In your view, was there any foreign interference in your case?
Lula: The U.S. Department of Justice instigated U.S. prosecutors to participate in the lawsuit against me. They came to Brazil to meet with the Brazilian Public Ministry (Public Prosecutor’s Office), and the Brazilian judges and prosecutors also went to the U.S. to discuss my conviction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We have recorded testimonies of U.S. prosecutors celebrating my arrest. Brazil playing an increasingly important role on the world stage is the sole explanation I could find for it.
We were striving to help more countries to become member states in the UN Security Council and to build an extremely strong bloc in South America. We built the BRICS, including Brazil, China, India, South Africa, and Russia. We were setting up a multilateral organization. As it were, we are thinking about creating a currency for business transactions to not depend on U.S. Dollar anymore. We could see that Brazil was maintaining a special relationship with China, and China has become our largest trading partner.
Here is an example: in the first year of my presidency, the trade between China and Brazil was only $6 billion. When I left office in 2010, it reached $76 billion, increasing over twelvefold during my presidency. China is extremely important to Brazil, and I think that has bothered the Americans. They felt bothered because they could in no way tolerate any rising country in Latin America. They thought that all Latin American countries must follow the U.S. State Department. Meanwhile, China has invested a lot in South America and Latin America and has built very close partnerships with Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and Ecuador, which troubled the U.S. greatly. Besides, Brazil and China’s entry into the African market have been a headache for the United States as well.
In other words, the U.S. fears losing its leading position as the world’s police. In reality, the U.S. is unwilling to see any competitor, no matter in economic, technological, or military fields. But the truth is that Brazil has become increasingly important on the world stage. China has been growing, and today, it’s one of the countries with the highest GDP in the world, and the Chinese economy has surpassed the U.S. economy [in purchasing power parity terms]. And now, they are also worried about China’s development in the field of military and aviation. So the Americans are anxious because they are used to being the hegemon since WWII, or to be more exact, WWI.
This is the only explanation I could find for the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, for my arrest and all the lies made up against the Workers’ Party. The United States has constantly interfered in Latin American politics. They should be responsible for the coup in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, and Argentina. This is part of the American political culture. And that is exactly what I have rebelled against. Brazil is a sovereign state, and it has the right to decide its policies and economy and determine its international relations as China does. That’s why we cannot accept the roles that the United States tries to impose on all human beings to become the world police.
Li: At the beginning of globalization in the 1990s and the 21st century, we all hoped that the entire developing world would develop just like the rich countries if we followed a particular prescription. And many countries did just that. But looking back, decades have passed, and obviously, China has accomplished a great deal, as everybody knows. But most of the other developing countries, the vast majority, and most of the countries within BRICS have stalled and couldn’t go further, including Brazil. What went wrong with these developing countries? Why? How come that only China excelled? And how could we change that?
Lula: When I was the President of Brazil, we encountered another problem which was the economic crisis. First was the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States, followed by the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. The crisis caused panic in the world economy. I was one of the founders of the G20 and was very active in promoting economic recovery in developing countries. But in reality, the rich countries were not used to making room for less developed countries. I remember at the G20 London Summit, I suggested that we should take advantage of the consumption crisis in rich countries to invest in poor countries, especially in the African countries, so that they could develop technologies to become consumers to invigorate the world economy. But this suggestion was not taken up. We have also tried to change the rules of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. But it turned out to be very difficult because the power is in the hands of Europe and the US.
But why could China make it happen? Because there is a political party in China. China was the product of the revolution led by Chairman Mao in 1949 when people tended to abide by the decisions made by the powerful political party and the strong government. This is what Brazil does not have. We could impeach our president Dilma Rousseff only because of a lie. It is reasonable to say that the financial elites in our country often meddle in politics, and we have to fight against them and prove to them that the government must play an important role in politics.
Many social policies that people need can only be carried out when the government is strong enough. Regrettably, the role of government has been gradually undermined in Latin American countries and Third World countries. More and more state-owned enterprises and government functions have been privatized. For example, China could respond to coronavirus so quickly because it has a strong political party and a powerful government to control and command. Brazil does not have all these, nor do other countries.
So I once had many hopes and dreams for the BRICS. I had grand visions for our relations with China, India, South Africa, and Russia. I thought that we should build a strategic partnership to enable the independence of the countries accounting for half of the world population against the policies of the U.S., and the independence of developing foreign trade and building partnerships for technology development without relying on USD. We were building partnerships with China to make our rockets to guard our country and the Earth.
I believe that the reason why China has developed in such an extraordinary way is not only because of the powerful political party but also the large investment in education. Millions of Chinese youths traveled around the world for training and studying. That’s why China has made a qualitative leap. In the 1980s, almost all European and American companies invested and moved their companies to China to produce cheaper goods and sell them in their countries.
Now they are moving their manufacturing out of China, thinking that in this way, they could bring harm and losses to China. But it was useless because China is a stable economic entity, and Chinese people know clearly what they want. I had once been to Shanghai and Beijing. Suffice it to say, the progress Chinese people have achieved in the last 20 years has been remarkable. And this was impossible without China’s political organization, competitiveness, culture, investment as well as scientific and technological knowledge. So I think China set an example for world development, and I hope other countries can learn from China so that we can be rich, strong, and gain more wealth and build a more humane world.
I have done a lot of work with your former president Hu Jintao on the necessity of building South-South relations to eliminate our dependence on developed countries. Unfortunately, we failed to make it, but I still have great faith and hope. I believe that we will be able to achieve this goal from 2022.
Li: Many things are happening, like what is happening in Columbia and Peru, and what’s happening in Brazil now is changing the air. What do you think your party and “south power” should do to cope with the changing situation?
Lula: I’ve been saying that in Latin America, especially Brazil, the media made a difference in the coup in Brazil, in the failure of Cristina Kirchner in the elections in Argentina four years ago, and in the coup against Evo Morales in Bolivia. And in Peru, there have been four presidents in a very short period.
Therefore, I want to tell you that things are gradually changing. The right wings dominating politics have remained radical for a long time. Things Trump did in the US and actions that Bosonaro took in Brazil were more or less like the emergence of Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany. Those dictators were unwilling to discuss with those who held different opinions against them, and they didn’t believe in their own abilities. Instead, their subservience to American interests is truly breathtaking.
What is happening now? People have already found that only they themselves can build a free sovereign state they need. Brazil is a vast country with more than 8.5 million square kilometers of land and 12% of the world’s freshwater resources. Brazil is so large that it must be sovereign and must have free relations with all countries, just as China has the freedom to establish diplomatic relations.
For example, when former president Hu Jintao visited Brazil in 2008, I recognized China as a market economy, causing the unhappiness of many Brazilian entrepreneurs and the US government. But the reason why I did that is that I preferred China to be able to gain the conditions that we had in the multilateral forum instead of being marginalized.
I have to say that our left wings are recovering from the things that happened in the past six or seven years in Latin America. Back then, massive loss and attrition to society occurred due to the increasing power of the right wings. And people gradually find that it is unworkable to practice politics through hatred, just like what is now happening in Brazil. Politics should be dealt with more peacefully and calmly. It is acceptable that people have differences, but political differences should not boil over into hatred.
In Brazil, there are always people winning or losing the election, which is held every four years. But we should not hold extreme views and regard the party, whether it wins or loses in the election, as our foes. We were like this before. But we changed into what we are now after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the success of Donald Trump in the presidential election, and the coup in Bolivia.
Luckily, the left-wing government has been in charge of Bolivia and Argentina. In Chile, people voted for the constitutional convention, and the right-wing government has gradually been marginalized. Now, we have seen what happened in Peru, and I believe that the same thing will happen in Brazil.
On my part, the democratic and progressive left-wing department in our country would win back democracy and make Brazil once again a respectable, wealth-generating, and constantly developing country. This is the goal I have held a firm belief in and what our party is striving for in Brazil.
Li: How do you see the future of multilateralism? How can we make multilateralism serve developing countries?
Lula: This is a very important question, and I have personal experiences. During the eight years of my presidency, I tried to change the logic of world geopolitics. I knew that the United Nations Security Council could not remain the composition as it was in 1948 as the geopolitical layout had already changed.
First, we should not cling to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) built after WWII. The world has changed, and other countries have developed. So we think that it should include other countries. Africa must have a place, and Latin America and Asian countries should also have more representatives in UNSC. I’ve discussed this problem with my friends from China, Russia, and France many times. Why? Because we must rely on global governance to solve the crisis. Let me give you an example. If global governance had been effective and the United Nations Security Council had been more representative, the coronavirus crisis could have been discussed promptly with the most important countries in the world, and the vaccine, as a public good, could have been provided for free to over seven billion inhabitants of the world. The extra money in the world would also be apportioned so that other countries could receive loans at lower interest rates.
So, I think we must be aware of the need to change the role of multilateral institutions so that they could respect the participation of those countries rising later because the developed country has already got everything. Let me give you an interesting example. When Brazil was bidding for the Olympics (We wanted to host the Olympic Games in Brazil. And I am grateful for the Chinese delegates who voted for Brazil), I found an interesting thing: Switzerland, such a small country, has five members of the International Olympic Committee. Five members! More than the total number of members from Africa. And Italy has five members. Norway has four or five. However, Nigeria and Angola have none. So the way the world is organized is truly absurd. For example, the IMF is a multilateral organization founded to solve problems among countries. But when a crisis takes place in rich countries, the IMF is of no importance. When it happened in a poor country, the IMF would interfere, just like what is happening in Argentina now.
So more Third World countries and developing countries should be included in the management in all aspects of the IMF’s management. So we established a bank called New Development Bank between Brazil and Russia. We believe that this bank could motivate multilateral institutions, set an example for financing, and help other countries in need. If we were not to change the way multilateralism works and the rules for nominating the management of multilateral institutions, we could change nothing.
China should not be treated as a poor country, and Brazil became the sixth-largest economic entity in the world in 2008. However, we are still not members of the G7 or G8. Because it is a club of the rich, which does not accept the participation of poor countries. The same thing can be found in any Chinese or Brazilian family. Those who have been rich would gradually forget their poor relatives. People must understand that Brazil is not a poor country despite its large number of poor people. The problem in Brazil is the uneven distribution of wealth. We should not see China as a poor country as well just because there are still many poor people there. China has become the world’s largest economic entity [in purchasing power parity terms] and it should be seen in this way. We should not see the G7 as the ruler of the world. All countries, from the smallest ones to the largest ones, must participate on equal terms.
I think it’s vital to use BRICS and South-South cooperation to balance world geopolitics. And our relationship shall not only be confined to the economy but also extend to the cultural and political fields, to the communication between research institutes, universities, and scientific-technological partnerships so that every country could have the opportunities to grow, learn and develop. Changes should occur so that Africa is not the poorest region after 500 years, and Brazil can not wait for another 500 years to be a developed country. Brazil has to strive to become a developed country, which can not depend on the United States, but on ourselves.
So, if we want to cooperate with China, we must establish a strategic partnership with it, just like what I did when I was the president of Brazil. If it is necessary to cooperate with Russia, then we will do it. The United States should not intervene in China’s external relations and its development. How come? How come a country could be more powerful than others? How can a country set rules about what another country can or cannot have? So I truly believe that we should change what’s happening in the world now. I’m sure that we could win support from the Chinese, Russian, and South African governments. We should show the prospect even to the relatively more conservative Indian government. The reason why India can get rid of poverty and develop from within is because of its smart and capable people.
Li: You are one of the most important world leaders that were at the beginning of formulating BRICS. But in recent years, Brazil has been increasingly distancing itself from BRICS. How do you see Brazil come back to this grouping and be a leader?
Lula: One thing is for sure. When I participated in the establishment of BRICS, I was sure and confident that BRICS would be able to change many things concerning multilateral relations worldwide.
I am ambitious that, either viewed from the business or financial perspective, BRICS, together with our developed bank and partnership between the universities made through the BRICS, could change human history and provide opportunities unavailable for developing countries in the past five hundred years.
I can tell you that I deeply believe that as long as we reestablish democracy in Brazil and select a president who practices democracy and is committed to the protection of Brazilian sovereignty and its people, I can assure you that we will resume the discussion with an intensity that matches that of the BRICS.
I, together with the former president of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, participated in the establishment of BRICS, which was then abandoned by Brazil. This was horrible for Brazil. But why? Because the person we elected only cared about Americans rather than Brazilians. It is regrettable that Brazilians should hold such inferiority.
Here is another example. Huawei is banned by the U.S. from entering the markets of other countries. That is unacceptable. This persecution of Chinese companies is unbelievable because American companies attempt to permeate into every corner of the world.
The Operation Car Wash in Brazil, the action that accused me and caused my arrest, was based on the interests of U.S. entrepreneurs who wanted to destroy everything we had built in the oil, gas, and offshore industries and engineering. They have already successfully achieved their goal of ruining everything. Almost all our engineering companies have gone bankrupt while competing with their global counterparts. Chinese people know clearly about the capacity of Brazilian engineering companies. So, that is their (Americans) purpose.
We cannot allow this to continue to happen. We cannot accept the interference of the U.S. in the relationship between China and Latin America or other African countries. Similarly, we cannot accept the interference of America in the policy we made towards China. China and Brazil are all sovereign countries, so the relationship we built and the accordance we reached should be beneficial to the Chinese and Brazilian peoples.
So, that’s the thing I think we once again need to win back. I am optimistic about it, and I believe that BRICS would be the most unusual thing that we have established together. But unfortunately, a coup took place in Brazil.
The changing attitude of the Indian government has weakened our motivation for us to get stronger. But I believe Brazil would return with stronger power and help the BRICS Bank become an exemplar for other southern countries and a development bank for developing countries. That is exactly what we want. I hope the 21st century will be much better than the past century.
Li: The question is, can we, the developing countries, perform better than developed countries in narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor? Can we do better? How will you do better?
Lula: I think that will be the great theme for the next few decades. It’s about how to turn the wealth produced by the country into a common good for all, not for a few.
When I was president, we made the largest-ever income transfer to the poor, and in 2012, Brazil was considered off the hunger map because we ended hunger in Brazil. As I have answered in the previous questions before, we have generated 22 million jobs while about 100 million people in Europe were unemployed. Though it is true that the wealth of the rich is still growing, it is for the first time in Brazilian history that the income of the poor has increased by fifteen percent more than that of the rich.
If I return to office, we must have a tax policy that requires more tax from the rich so that we can provide more benefits and distribute more wealth to the poor. The poor people are also in need of a job and a home, and they also want to study, relax and experience the culture. And that’s the least a government should provide for them. We can’t live in a country where millions of people are displaced, and only a handful of people live lives of power.
Recently, I read in a magazine interview that the president of Amazon bought a $400 million yacht. How can a citizen buy a $400 million yacht in the face of so much hunger in the world? There are a billion people who don’t have enough to eat, and people are sleeping on the streets in the United States. So I was happy when I heard Biden talk about taxing the rich more.
In Argentina, Alberto Fernández just set up a kind of tax on the richest people, and in Brazil, we will also set up such a tax. It’s not just about taxes. It has to be the right distribution of money so that everyone can live with dignity. There can not be such a big gap between the highest wage and the lowest wage. It has to be much closer, and only the government can do that. Only the government can create some kind of equity between people and provide the same access to schooling, health care, employment, and higher education. That’s something that has to be done by the government.
Because of this, I am not an advocate of weak government or anarchy. Instead, I advocate a fair, strong government, a government that can ensure the right of all its citizens.
So people know that if I am re-elected the president of Brazil, we will fight for more social justice and more income distribution, and we will speak up: the more you earn, the more you pay in taxes; the less you earn, the less you pay in taxes, but three meals a day are guaranteed for all, and everyone has the right to go to school, go to the theater, go to the movies, and take their families for a walk, which is the least we want for every person living on the planet.
Therefore, we must oppose wealth accumulation and distribute it more fairly simultaneously. I believe there will be a new era in the world because we can’t continue the accumulation of wealth as it is now. We can’t go on like this, it’s not beneficial to humanity.
Now, the struggles among laboratories would be seen even in the issue of vaccination. Each of them is thinking of making more money, and only a few of them care about their people. That is to say, every person, no matter whether he is in a developed or developing country, must gain access to vaccination. If a poor country cannot purchase vaccines, rich countries should donate.
That’s exactly why we signed the document, and in another interview I did for China, I invited President Xi Jinping to make that decision. I also asked Biden, Macron, Merkel, and Putin the same way. In other words, the G20, the G8, and the United Nations Security Council must have a meeting and must make a provision for everyone to be vaccinated.
This is the logic of the new world we want to build. We don’t need a world where people live on the streets, a world where people don’t have coffee with milk to drink before they go to bed, for China, that means no hot tea to drink. Such a world is possible, and we did it once in Brazil. Unfortunately, poverty has made a recent comeback and is worse than before, and the unemployment rate is now the highest in our country’s history, but the government is indifferent to it.
Therefore, I am confident, and I believe that we will once again contribute to changing the world to build a more just, more humane, more united, more loving, and more equal one.
Li: What’s your plan next?
Lula: In 2021, the Workers’ Party has a more important task than the election itself, which is to guarantee the full vaccination of Brazilians and their accessibility to emergency aid for their survival and to make sure the normal economic activity of small and medium-sized enterprises by issuing a financing policy and to ensure the heavy investment towards the infrastructure projects so that we could generate more job opportunities.
As is known to all, I have determined to do more than what I have already done. I would not run for another presidential election without such ambition. I am very calm, and I deeply know the role Brazil and China would play, and India as well.
When I was the president of Brazil, at the beginning of my tenure, we had a gas pipeline to build in Brazil, and China and Japan were competing for this. Although the Japanese government has the credit financing provided by the Japanese bank, we decided to leave the project to China instead of Japan since we wanted to further improve our relationship with China.
I have a pleasant memory of the good relationship we have built with China. I think that even though China is Brazil’s largest trading partner, in reality, our government today doesn’t respect nor treat China as a partner because the government only cares about the U.S., not China.
I am not saying that we need to be unfriendly with the United States. We should maintain a good relationship with the U.S. And I want to maintain the same relationship with China, Russia, Nigeria, Angola, South Africa, and Malaysia. Americans said that they were worried that Chinese people are helping Asian countries arm themselves and get militarily prepared, which is groundless. Just look at the U.S. military budget, and we will realize that they are in no political position to criticize anyone.
So, Eric here is the thing. I’m going to work very, very hard. Though I’m 75 years old, I still believe that I am pretty healthy and energetic. I occasionally joke that I want to live to 120. Scientifically speaking, a man who could live to 120 has appeared. Why not me? So you’ll see that I was that human being who will live 120 years. I’m in good health, physically and mentally, and fully motivated. Every human being with a cause won’t age and what motivates me is the cause of striving for the well-being of all Brazilian people who should not have gone through what they are experiencing right now. This is the motivation I have held to live and fight.
Li: We wish you great luck and great health.
Lula: I am very interested in China, and I want to keep in touch with the Communist Party of China, with many friends I have made during this time, and I also want to come to the headquarters of BRICS and maybe visit your office and see how this website (Guancha) has developed so much. I would also like to discuss the joint development of both countries, and you can be sure that I will be ready for that.
I want to thank you for this opportunity, and I want to tell you that it is very gratifying to see how China is developing. It’s great to see China take a significant place in the world economy and to see China take a place in world geopolitics. That’s what I want for China, that’s what I want for Brazil, and that’s what I want for South Africa, Nigeria, Argentina, and Mexico. Latin America can’t be born poor, and it should not be natural that every time a country in Latin America starts to grow, there’s a coup. And it is unacceptable that in every coup, people from America and American ambassadors would be involved.
Eric, thank you for inviting me, and thank Marco Fernández for coordinating it, and hope we will have many more opportunities. (Enditem)