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Friday 5 June 2020

Brazilian minister: COVID part of Chinese ‘plan for world domination’

China is predictably livid, but ironically it is the largest trading partner of Brazil, which is unlikely to do anything more than pinpricks

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China has demanded from Brazil an explanation after the education minister of the latter attributed the coronavirus pandemic to Beijing’s “plan for world domination”. To rub it in, Brazilian education minister Abraham Weintraub tweeted the statement imitating a Chinese accent.

Weintraub insinuated that China was behind the global pandemic, saying, “Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis? Who in Brazil is allied with this infallible plan for world domination?”

Written in Portuguese, the Brazilian minister’s tweet has the letter “r” replaced with upper-case ‘L’: “BLazil” instead of “Brazil”. This is how the West often mocks the Chinese accent.

China’s embassy in Brasilia condemned Weintraub’s tweet, calling it “absurd and despicable” and “highly racist”. Ambassador Yang Wanming tweeted in reply to the Brazilian minister’s tweet: “The Chinese government expects an official explanation from Brazil.”

The Brazilian minister is but in no mood to apologise unconditionally or withdraw his statement. He defended his tweet in the course of an interview. He called on China to do more to help fight the pandemic. “If they [China] sell us 1,000 ventilators, I’ll get down on my knees in front of the embassy, apologise and say I was an idiot,” Weintraub told Radio Bandeirantes.

Brazilian health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta had said last week his country had been finding it difficult to source ventilators and other critical medical supplies from China. He had said some of its orders had been cancelled without Beijing explaining why they did so.

Ironically, notwithstanding the spar between the two countries, Brazil, like many other countries in the West, has asked for more medical equipment from China to tackle COVID-19. In fact, China is the biggest trading partner of Brazil.

The spat has been going on since Monday. Hashtagged ‘TradeBlockadeOnChinaNow’ trended at the top on Twitter in Brazil yesterday.

COVID has affected Brazil the most terribly among all Latin American countries. The largest South American country has reported nearly 500 deaths and more than 11,000 confirmed cases till now.

Brazil-China bilateral relations have been strained since the pandemic surfaced. President Jair Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, a federal lawmaker, was the one to trigger the Twitter war. Bolsonaro Jr slammed China’s “dictatorship” for its handling of the outbreak in March. Last week, he had posted a tweet mentioning the “Chinese virus”. It’s a phrase that gets on Beijing’s nerves. The World Health Organisation, the conduct of which has been dubious since its director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus toured China in January, has advised against the use of this coinage. But US President Donald Trump uses the phrase too.

China’s consul general in Rio de Janeiro Li Yang was livid. He asked Eduardo Bolsonaro through an article in Brazilian newspaper O Globo: “Are you really that naïve and ignorant?”

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