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The Relationship Between Brazil and China (Opinion)

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Ronaldo Mota Chancellor of the Estácio University Group
(originally published on the daily newspaper THE DAY (RJ), on November 2, 2018. Herein republished with the author’s permission).

Recently, I was invited to join the International Evaluation Committee of the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT). The BIT is one of the Chinese public universities with a major focus on Science and Technology, also working in other areas such as management and humanities.

Periodically, Chinese universities undergo supervised assessments by committees formed by senior researchers, specially selected around the world. I believe this is the first time that a Brazilian was invited.

This year, the face-to-face phase of the evaluation process will be in November. Accustomed to the assessments of national universities, one can not be surprised at the leading indicators guiding the Chinese process. Although the quality of education and traditional scientific production are considered, the emphasis of the process is on the analysis of partnerships with the corporate world and on encouraging entrepreneurship among learners.

For those who have become accustomed to associating Chinese products with copies and imitations, be it in the computer, automobile, electronic and mobile industries, the current reality shows that they have definitely learned to do things their own way, that is, innovating more than its competitors.

The partnership between government, academia and companies can be exemplified by the university’s appreciation of what they call BAT, an acronym that corresponds to the initials of the three great stars: Baidu, Alibaba and Tihncent. Together, these companies account for more than US$1 trillion. Next to them are the almost two hundred unicorns (startups that have surpassed the US$1 billion mark), which together approach the same amount of BAT. In other words, the BAT added to the unicorns is roughly equivalent to the Brazilian GDP.

In synchronized actions in China, all the actors involved promote and value disruptive innovations in areas that include intelligent urban infrastructure, stand-alone vehicles and personalized medicine platforms, always based on artificial intelligence and widespread e-commerce. The Chinese have absolute clarity that all this is the result of strong investments in Education, which grow annually over 10%, reaching the incredible figure of more than US$500 billion last year.

Currently, about 14% of Beijing University students have opened or work in startups and there is a goal to double that percentage. Without this, they understand that the goal of making the country a global leader in artificial intelligence and other strategic areas will not be achieved.

Considering that China has been our main trading partner for almost a decade, a period in which Chinese investments in Brazil have grown by 3,000%, it is essential that we know them well. In the first half of 2018, Chinese investments in Brazil, concentrated in energy, food, mining and telecommunications, reached US $ 1.4 billion, four times higher than in the same period last year.

Prospects, whether in trade, global politics or academic partnerships, are potentially favorable to Brazil, but China will be able to identify whether the country is only a source of commodities or whether the partnership will also be in joint ventures, based on qualified education and substantive plans in Science, Technology and Innovation. As for Brazil, it will be necessary to decide what relations it intends to establish with China, with the rest of the world and with itself.

On June 26, Temer sanctioned the law establishing the National Day of Chinese Immigration. The official arrival of the first Chinese immigrants to Sao Paulo, according to official records, occurred on August 15, 1900, that’s the reason for the choice of this date as National Day of Chinese Immigration.