China’s state-run Global Times expressed outrage Wednesday over comparisons between its economy and Brazil’s, dismissing Brazilians as lazy and insisting that, “it may sound racist,” but Brazil’s culture is too inferior to China’s to ever succeed with full development.
Under Communist Party leader Xi Jinping, China’s government has increased calls for the embrace of “traditional Chinese culture,” meaning a mixture of Han culture and Maoist communism, over other world cultures, including minority cultures within China like Uighur or Tibetan culture. Chinese state media has increased the publication of articles arguing that Han Chinese people are more intelligent, harder working, and generally superior to others around the world.
The article published Wednesday, by Global Times senior editor Ding Gang, claims that any reports suggesting that Xi’s rule has weakened the Chinese economy through repelling cooperative international exchanges with belligerent behavior and a disregard for international trade rules do not properly understand the power of the Han Chinese culture. It uses Brazil as an example of an inferior culture not worthy of joining the developed world.
This attitude is notably different from China’s toward Brazil as recently as two years ago under socialist President Dilma Rousseff, when Xi was betting millions on Brazil’s economy modernizing and flourishing. As always occurs, however, Rousseff’s socialist policies and the widespread corruption that defined her tenure has brought Brazil to the brink of collapse, in part due to unmanageable debts to China. Current President-elect Jair Bolsonaro has promised to distance the Brazilian government from China and curb spending fueled by unwieldy Chinese loans, addressing them as a sovereignty issue.
Global Times editor Ding does not mention Bolsonaro by name. Instead, he targets all Brazilian people.
“I stayed in Brazil for three years and well understand why the Brazilian economy has weakened and why China’s would be different. To be honest, Brazil does not compare well with China,” Ding writes. His impetus for the comparison is an article by U.S. columnist Bret Stephens that argues, according to Ding, that China’s economy will fall just as Brazil’s did under Rousseff.
Ding takes offense at the idea that Brazilian culture is comparable to the Han Chinese.
“My experience says whether a country can achieve industrialization depends on many factors, culture being the most important. It includes how people view their work, family, children’s education and wealth accumulation,” he writes. “It may sound racist to differentiate development based on culture. But after living in Brazil for a while, you will find out the answer.”
“Brazilians are not willing to be as diligent and hard working as the Chinese. Neither do they value savings for the next generation, like the Chinese do. Yet they demand the same welfare and benefits as those in developed countries,” Ding concludes. This inherent laziness in the Brazilians makes the country “unsuitable for manufacturing.”
In contrast, “Chinese people have huge potential for pursuing family and personal happiness.”
Ding’s assertion that Brazilians are doomed to failure because they are lazy and entitled does not appear to be intended to directly criticize Xi’s policy of investing heavily in Brazil’s economy for years, but inevitably raises the question of why China would bother with such a hopeless country if Ding’s conclusion was so impossible to escape. In 2014, the Global Times was touting the importance of cultural exchanges with the allegedly inferior Brazilians. Xi has invested heavily in spending to teach Chinese people the Portuguese language and send them to study abroad.
As recently as a year ago – a year after the Brazilian Congress impeached and removed Rousseff – experts observed that China’s deepest influence in any Latin American nation was occurring in Brazil. Foreign investment from China was “flowing into Brazil like a tsunami,” one expert noted. China also invested in expanding its military relationship with Brazil, indicating a higher level of trust in Brasilia than Ding appears to have.
The Communist Party censors and screens all media in China and strictly controls what state media outlets publish, leaving little room for the possibility that Ding’s is a minority opinion in Beijing. The trigger for China’s change in attitude appears to have been the election of conservative Bolsonaro in October, as the head of government to-be explicitly warned against Chinese investment as a candidate, suggesting that China “is buying Brazil” and intends to control its government. Since then, China has shifted to heavy investment in neighboring Argentina, while the Global Times has warned of a radical cultural shift making Brazil suddenly unhospitable to Xi Jinping.
The Times has not limited itself to criticizing Brazil’s culture, however, publishing a growing number of stories asserting that China’s culture is superior to all.
“In terms of political culture, Chinese civilization may not enjoy the longest history of all ancient civilizations, but it has survived vicissitudes for thousands of years and still prospers—the epitome of Chinese people’s vitality and creation—as well as a reflection of the political culture in Chinese civilization,” one 2017 column read, explaining that the Soviet Union fell because it lacked “traditional Chinese culture,” including the merging of communism with Confucianism.
Just as the Russians failed where the Chinese claim to succeed, so too does the Global Times explain away America’s problems as cultural ones. A year ago, a column in the newspaper argued that the American opioid crisis was impossible in China because the country lacks “a lax cultural attitude” more prevalent in the United States. The article failed to mention that China is the world’s largest exporter of fentanyl, an opioid responsible for about half of American opioid overdose deaths last year.
“What drives the Chinese to work so hard? It is not only the pursuit of better pay, domestic economy but also their mentality and the workplace culture,” the Times boasted in September. “Confucianism is still relevant. Even in Asia, Chinese are regarded more hardworking than people of other countries.”
“Laziness is regarded a crime. It is said recreation will make you less determined. It is almost like a religion that has deeply impacted Chinese in China and overseas,” the newspaper asserted. “Holding on to this idea, most Chinese would rather show their boss that they work for longer hours than showing they work smart or efficiently.”