Convinced by Chancellor Ernesto Araújo, President Jair Bolsonaro last year asked the Chinese regime to change ambassador to Brazil, Yang Wanming.
The measure was taken in April and repeated in November, after clashes via social networks between the diplomat and MP Eduardo Bolsonaro. Beijing ignored the Brazilian request on both occasions.
Ernesto took care of President Bolsonaro’s son and severed his relationship with Yang.
The trigger behind the request was the Twitter clash between Eduardo and the Chinese diplomat. In March 2020, the MP published a text comparing the Covid-19 pandemic to the Chernobyl nuclear accident (1986) and claiming that the Chinese regime was responsible for the spread of the disease.
“Replace the nuclear power plant with the coronavirus and the Soviet dictatorship with the Chinese. Once again a dictatorship preferred to hide something serious rather than to expose it with wear and tear, but that would save countless lives”, wrote the then deputy.
Yang called Eduardo’s speech a “malicious insult” and the official embassy profile published a post accusing the MP of having contracted a “mental virus”.
The clash prompted the Brazilian government to take a drastic decision, which raised apprehension among Itamaraty diplomats.
At the end of March, Ernesto sent Paulo Estivallet de Mesquita, the Brazilian ambassador to Beijing, a diplomatic telegram asking him to hand over an official document to the Chinese government requesting Yang’s replacement – which happened in early April, according to reports. people who participated in the discussions. heard by Folha on condition of anonymity.
The request was ignored.
Wanted, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not comment on the subject.
In November, at the height of attacks on Huawei, Chinese telecommunications giant Eduardo accused China of promoting industrial espionage using 5G equipment.
Yang reacted and the Foreign Ministry again requested the exchange.
Formal requests for Yang’s replacement were secret, but a letter Ernesto sent to the Chinese embassy in Brasilia set the tone for the Bolsonaro government’s discontent with the Chinese diplomat.
“It is not appropriate for the diplomatic agents of the People’s Republic of China in Brazil to deal with the affairs of the Brazil-China relationship through social media. Diplomatic channels are open and should be used,” the ministry said. Foreign Affairs in the letter, sent in November.
Officially, there has been no response to Yang’s exchange requests. However, Beijing has sent information to Brazilian authorities that its ambassador to Brazil is a respected figure in the Chinese civil service.
A member of the Bolsonaro government maintains that Yang’s statements have been approved by authorities in Beijing, who have asked his diplomats abroad to respond accordingly to protests deemed offensive to the regime.
Ernesto’s relationship with Yang is severed. The doors of the Itamaraty division in charge of Asia and the Pacific are also closed to him, according to relatives of the ambassador.
Interlocutors heard by Folha stressed that the Brazilian government’s request for replacement of the Chinese ambassador is totally outside diplomatic practice.
Governments have the prerogative to expel foreign diplomats from the country, but this move is seen as extreme and with the potential to damage bilateral relations.
If Bolsonaro had opted for this measure, the inevitable response would be the expulsion of the Brazilian ambassador from Beijing, exacerbating the diplomatic crisis with Brazil’s largest trading partner.
Still according to these interlocutors, Ernesto opted for a more “light” and “marketing” effect, taking into account in particular the interests of the Bolsonaro family.
A diplomat experienced in Brazil-China relations said the Bolsonaro government should know that Beijing will not stand for election. If it concedes to Brazil, China could see similar demands from other countries where Chinese ambassadors have been controversial.
In Sweden, for example, the Chinese ambassador made statements that worried local authorities.
Ernesto’s embarrassment – ignored by Beijing – was most evident when President Bolsonaro was forced to seek China for the release of inputs to manufacture the coronavirus vaccine.
The Planalto Palace has, until the last moment, attempted to guarantee the import of ready-to-use Oxford / AstraZeneca immunizers manufactured in a laboratory in India.
However, faced with the failure of negotiations with India, he ended up suffering a political setback against Governor João Doria (PSDB-SP), who negotiated directly with a Chinese laboratory to buy Coronavac.
Doria had the first vaccination photo in the country.
To make matters worse for the federal government, which had already been criticized for the delay in starting vaccination, the Butantan Institute and Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) were with late shipments of inputs for the manufacture of immunizers.
The inputs – both the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine and the Coronavac vaccine – are produced by China.
Bolsonaro then appealed to China and even called for a phone conversation with the country’s leader Xi Jinping.
Faced with the difficulties, Bolsonaro asked Ernesto live to recompose relations with the Asian giant. The Chancellor replied that the Brazilian ambassador in Beijing was speaking directly to the Chinese government.
But behind the scenes, the Chancellor maintained the “closed door” policy for Yang.
Furthermore, Ernesto has not given up on the anti-China rhetoric that has marked his administration and recently ordered his subordinates to put together critical statements made by foreign officials against the Chinese regime.
In one of the requests Folha had access to, Ernesto asks members of the diplomatic corps to send him statements from Australian and Japanese authorities against Beijing.
To get around the Itamarat’s lack of dialogue with the Chinese embassy, the president took the suggestions of ministers who have formed a sort of “triple alliance” to try to save Brazil’s relations with its main trading partner. Ministers Eduardo Pazuello (Health), Tereza Cristina (Agriculture) and Fábio Faria (Communications) are part of the efforts.
Vice President General Hamilton Mourão, who chairs the China-Brazil High Level Consultation and Cooperation Commission (Cosban), was not invited. He is living in the worst moment of his relationship with Bolsonaro, who has ceased to delegate to government deputy duties.