Nov. 6 (UPI) -- For those hoping to unite like-minded leaders around the globe against a China that is aggressively pushing for expansion at the cost of freedom, Eduardo Bolsonaro's decision not to become the next Brazilian ambassador to the United States may seem like a huge blow. But that is a premature assessment.
While it is true that Brazil under his father, Jair Bolsonaro, is an indispensable ally at a time when few of its so-called "traditional allies" are willing to pull their weight and stand with Washington, the move hints at deeper fissures that the president needs to address if he truly wants to make Brazil great again.
When Jair Bolsonaro came to power in March this year, he did so on a platform modeled on the one that brought U.S. President Donald Trump to the White House. With Jair Bolsonaro, hope reignited that an economy kneecapped by ineffective left-wing policies could be revived, and the seemingly bottomless swamp of corruption created in the name of the people by successive left governments could be drained. In other words, that a socialist dystopia in Brazil could be avoided.
A new hope
As was the case with Trump, Jair Bolsonaro's victory was dutifully decried in the left-wing media, but the facts don't lie: Under his rule, Brazil has opened up its economy -- once one of the most closed markets in the world -- to business and has enacted social reform that was ironically neglected by a corrupt elite focused on personal gain. Accordingly, the International Monetary Fund is predicting an uptick in global growth in 2020, thanks to strong economic growth in countries like Brazil, proving without doubt that Jair Bolsonaro's economic policies are right on the money.
For these reasons, a main plank of his policies has been building ties with the United States -- an effective break from previous Brazilian governments, which were traditionally more skeptical of Washington -- and especially Trump. Jair Bolsonaro stuck out because of his clear and passionate stance against China, regarded as a natural ally by Brazil's socialists, decrying how China was not merely "buying in Brazil," but in fact "buying up Brazil" and exposing Beijing as the predator it really is.
The problem is that Jair Bolsonaro's hitherto steadfast position against the Reds seems to be crumbling. Deep into his first term, he has suddenly begun to strike a milder tone with Beijing. The reason? Chinese money, of all things. Brazil has turned out to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of Trump's trade war against China's unfair, imperialistic economic policies. Brazilian soy is in high demand since China hit American produce with high tariffs. But Chinese interests have since expanded into sectors as diverse as telecommunications and financial services, pumping $11 billion into Brazil in 2017. No wonder that Brazil's agriculture minister announced in August that the country would no longer take sides in the trade war.
Unfortunately, Brazil's stance is being undermined from within. A particular cause for concern is the fact that Eduardo Bolsonaro seems to be entangled with Chinese business interests. Scathing evidence came in the form of a photo published on his Instagram, showing Eduardo Bolsonaro receiving a symbolic $8.2 billion check for investments in Brazil from Jackson Widjaja, owner of paper producer Paper Excellence, which is part of Chinese-Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas. Paper Excellence hoped to acquire Brazilian pulp producer Eldorado with cash from China Development Bank, a key funder for China's Belt and Road projects, but failed to secure funding for the acquisition.
Needless to say, Eduardo Bolsonaro's action was a blatant swipe at Brazil's supposed anti-Chinese rhetoric and an inexcusable sellout. The president's youngest son was rightfully torn to shreds in the domestic press for this shameful display, so his decision to ditch plans for the ambassadorship is only consequential as it would have harmed Brazil's standing in Washington. Therefore, Eduardo Bolsonaro's warming to Chinese interests wouldn't have done the Brasilia-Washington alliance much good, and it stands to reason that it would have negatively impacted bilateral relations in the long run.
If this wasn't bad enough, as early as May, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao had visited China to "repair ties" with Beijing, in spite of the clear threat to Brazil's economic sovereignty the country represents. It is unclear to what extent Mourao followed Jair Bolsonaro's line, since the VP is known to "preferring quiet diplomacy to regain the support of Beijing and show he can temper Mr. [Jair] Bolsonaro's anti-China impulses," potentially making Mourao one of the biggest liabilities to the Bolsonaro government.
Brazil must not waiver
Jair Bolsonaro's moves are sending all the wrong signals at the wrong time. Given the fact that he is under fire at home from unruly elements in the governing party, it would be better to focus on the domestic fissures and restore discipline in the party. It is obvious that the president could use all the support he can get, seeing that he's also under relentless assault from the toxic leftist media environmentalist complex over Brazil's forest fires.
It is crucial that the country does not fall back into old patterns. Now more than ever, like-minded men like Jair Bolsonaro and Trump are systematically being undermined by a self-righteous media landscape, making it just the more pivotal that they stick to their principles with vigor. If Brazil is to continue its path of renewal and become great again, Jair Bolsonaro must stick to his charted course and help rid the world of the abusive practices honed by Chinese communists to unfairly dominate foreign markets.
L. Todd Wood is a former U.S. Air Force special operations helicopter pilot and emerging market bond trader.