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Brazil's economic future yet to be clear

China Daily | Updated: 2018-11-01 07:26
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Jair Bolsonaro, president-elect of Brazil, waves at a polling station in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. [Photo/Agencies]

Editor's note: Far-right leader Jair Bolsonaro was elected the president of Brazil on Sunday. His win ends the almost two-decade leftist rule in Brazil. Two experts share their views with China Daily's Pan Yixuan on the development and Brazil's future. Excerpts follow:

Bolsonaro a part of 'mainstream'

Disappointed by the previous leftist governments of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Vana Rousseff for their alleged involvement in corruption and worried about the declining economy, Brazilian voters chose Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right leader and former army captain, as their president. Bolsonaro secured 10 percent more votes than Fernando Haddad, the leftist Workers' Party candidate.

After Bolsonaro is sworn in the president on Jan 1, 2019, he is expected to take steps to fulfill his campaign promises of cracking down on corruption and crime, and expediting economic development.

Brazil's GDP grew 1 percent last year ending a two-year economic downturn. But the country's economy is still not in a good shape, which makes economic revitalization a tough task for Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro's social security reform may have a big impact on policies, benefiting some people, which may polarize the Brazilian public because of the wealth gap. Most of Bolsonaro's supporters are in southern Brazil, where industries and agriculture are well developed. On the other hand, most of Haddad supporters are in southeastern Brazil where people have benefited from the leftist governments' policies.

So Bolsonaro is likely to focus more on improving the domestic environment. But what will he bring to Latin America and the world?

For Latin America, Bolsonaro's win may further hamper the Latin American integration, especially because Colombia has already quit the Union of South American Nations, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States has had difficulties in holding meetings in recent years.

Disputes between right-wing and leftist forces have existed in Latin America for long. With Brazil having a right-wing president, rightist governments in Latin American countries such as Chile will establish closer relations with it while leftist governments would carefully weigh the situation.

Given these facts, will Bolsonaro indulge in extreme diplomacy and review Brazil's relations with China? We have to wait for an answer. In the meanwhile, let us pay attention to some positives. Bolsonaro's economic counselor Paulo Guedes is a University of Chicago-trained economist who supports free trade, and most of Bolsonaro's voters' interests are closely related to trade. So there is hope.

What Brazil does at the next BRICS Summit, which it hosts in 2019, would give a better idea of Bolsonaro's foreign policy.

Xu Shicheng, a researcher at the Institute of Latin American Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

What to expect from another rightist leader?

After decades of post-Cold War development thanks to globalization, the world economy is now undergoing necessary adjustments. Economic decline and the immigrants' issue have caused a lot of domestic problems in Europe and the United States, even in Latin America.

To deal with the problems, Washington has introduced policies to attract US manufacturing companies back to the country, and implemented strict immigration laws.

Multilateral organizations such as the World Trade Organization, too, face unprecedented challenges, in particular because of the US' protectionist and isolationist policies.

There is no doubt that national interests play a significant role in international relations. But today national security has become the top priority for some countries. Therefore, whether Bolsonaro, as a far-right leader, might practice extreme diplomacy and trigger trade frictions with China is a question that deserves serious thought.

The rising popularity of right-wing forces shows that the trend of questioning the need for multilateral cooperation is growing stronger. But it should be noted that the uneven benefits of globalization over the past decades have led to setbacks in multilateral cooperation.

Besides, the challenge multilateral cooperation faces because of the rising tide of unilateralism and protectionism could also weaken bilateralism and the cooperation among BRICS countries.

Zhu Feng, dean of the Institute of International Relations of Nanjing University

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