The dispute for 5G in Brazil

Carlos Zilio, ESTUDO, 1970, felt-tip pen on paper, 47x32,5
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By ALEXANDRE G. DE B. FIGUEIREDO*

The US ambassador raises the tone in Brazil and walks in the direction of a belligerence inappropriate to his function. This is about the importance of 5G

Recalling the famous thought of Clausewitz, for whom war is the continuation of politics by other means, Raymond Aron wrote that diplomats are soldiers who defend national interests by peaceful means. In his classic work, Peace and War between Nations, Aron presented a view of international relations as more properly the study of relations between States that, in turn, would interact in two ways: peace or war. Diplomat and soldier would be their representatives to pursue the desired objectives, whether in one scenario or another.

Brazil, in an unprecedented way, was the recent stage of a confrontation between diplomats that shows the shadow of war that falls over the XNUMXst century. The US Ambassador, Todd Chapman, with a behavior indicative of the submission of diplomacy to the aggressiveness that formerly fit in open conflicts, shared in the Twitter an indictment against the Chinese government. On his turn, the ambassador of China, Yang Wanming, also for the Twitter denounced the North American's behavior: his mission would be to come to Brazil to attack China with lying accusations.

Chapman wrote in Portuguese. The target audience for his message is therefore obvious. Through an ambassador, Washington continues its anti-China campaign in Brazil, which had already started months ago in the sewer of the fake news disseminated by groups of WhatsApp bolsonaristas and crowned with the direct participation of the president's son.

Ernesto Araújo, a chancellor, has used the expression “red virus” more than once. If we deduce the alleged reason of state to prevent the disclosure of selected excerpts from the insane meeting of ministers leaked as a result of the Moro case, Bolsonaro himself is not embarrassed in the role of transmission belt for the US campaign. His submission and professed love for Trump is sincere and as warm as the Covid-tainted hugs he bestowed on Chapman at the Fourth of July lunch.

What is at stake in this dispute for Brazilian public opinion? First, there is the deeper geopolitical question. The US acts to hinder the rise of China as an international leader and, above all, a partner that offers advantages without asking for military counterparts. But, secondly, there is the domestic dimension of an important chapter in the trade war: the dispute over the deployment of 5G in Brazil.

More than a fast and stable internet, 5G is the new frontier of the technological revolution. With its network, an endless amount of devices will be able to connect and be operated over the internet with precision, from cars and drones to homes and appliances, as well as, mainly, industries, agricultural machinery, etc. Furthermore, the signal is highly reliable and capable of reaching larger coverage areas.

It's called the “internet of things” and this time the Chinese are at the forefront. The persecution against the Chinese companies Huawey and ZTE, even in defiance of international norms consecrated by the United States itself, comes from the discomfort in dealing with a China that is no longer just a large and coveted consumer market.

The auction for the concession of the 5G network in Brazil, the direct target of this dispute, has already been postponed due to the pandemic. Anatel gave the general rules at the beginning of this year and there is, today, the forecast of a new auction in November. The most realistic believe that, in fact, the process will only be opened in 2021[I]. A time for the US and allies to catch up in the race?

A local political lack of definition adds another element to the dispute and indicates the reasons for the US ambassador's public campaign. When Bolsonaro recreated the Ministry of Communications, the national telecommunications policy was entrusted to the new minister, Fábio Faria, from the “Centrão” that controls the Legislature. Thus, a “pure” Bolsonarist like Marcos Pontes will no longer have the hammer of decision in this matter.

Now, if Bolsonaro adopts automatic alignment with Washington, the same cannot be said of the much more complex National Congress. To give you an idea, it was the Brazil-China Parliamentary Group that celebrated last year, at the Congress premises, the 45 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, with a photographic exhibition and commemorative stamp. There are deputies and senators, in all ranges of the ideological spectrum, who are concerned with relations between Brazil and its largest trading partner. On the issue of 5G, the responsible agents know that Brazil will lose a lot if it gives in to pressure from Washington and opts for the most expensive and worst technology.

For this reason, Todd Chapman's public agenda included, in addition to Twitter, an interview with CNN Brasil to accuse Chinese manufacturers of espionage and recommend, in yet another very didactic act on how US embassies work, that Brazil not use Chinese technology. These attacks are repeated by Trump and allies without any indication of supporting evidence.

From smoking so much pipe, the mouth turns: the USA knows what it does and the recent memory of the spying of Dilma Rousseff and Angela Merkel's emails shows well the phenomenon of the current projection. Not to mention the questions regarding the performance of North American networks in data capture. But, as for American espionage, already demonstrated (let's remember the wikileaks), the ambassador had nothing to say.

If there is no evidence against China, there is plenty in its favor.

Since 1979, China has not entered into armed conflicts with other states. The closest thing to that was the recent incident with India, in which a skirmish with sticks and stones killed some soldiers. The unusual weapons are the result of a measure adopted precisely to avoid a military escalation. The USA, in turn, in the same period, not even a year went by without an ongoing war. Including, with regard directly to China, Washington maintains a policy of strategic and military encirclement that runs through democratic and republican governments without constraints. If George Bush was the one who recognized India as a nuclear power, it was Barack Obama who expanded the agreements and military presence in the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

It's Fareed Zakaria, in the unsuspected Foreign Policy, which recalls that in this century China supported almost all UN Security Council Resolutions, in addition to having more soldiers in ongoing peacekeeping operations, commanded by the United Nations, than the sum of all other members of the Council[ii]. China bets on and operates in the multilateral institutions that were conceived under the hegemony of the United States: it is in the WTO, in the WHO, in climate agreements, etc.

Another indicator of its position is that of nuclear weapons, extremely important to measure the threatening potential of a country. Today, the US has 6185 warheads, of which 1750 are ready for use, deployed on missiles or installed on military bases. China, on the other hand, has 290 warheads, none of which are active.[iii]. In other words, he is an important and peaceful international actor, whose “crime” was investing heavily in science and technology and, today, being able to offer better and more advanced equipment than the North Americans.

The US ambassador raises the tone in Brazil and walks in the direction of a belligerence inappropriate to his function. Here, it is about the importance of 5G, but on the world stage there are the consequences of the displacement of the world's economic axis towards Asia. In the dispute it chooses to wage with China, will the US cross the border already dilated by its diplomats and directly involve its soldiers? There is a shadow of war in the redefinition of the international system in the XNUMXst century, but the threat, contrary to what the propaganda apparatus says, is far from coming from Beijing.

*Alexandre G. de B. Figueiredo He holds a PhD from the Postgraduate Program in Latin American Integration (PROLAM-USP

Notes:


[I] https://www12.senado.leg.br/noticias/infomaterias/2020/07/novo-patamar-de-telefonia-5g-ainda-deixa-duvidas-sobre-inclusao-digital-no-brasil

[ii] https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2019-12-06/new-china-scare

[iii] https://valdaiclub.com/multimedia/infographics/the-world-s-nuclear-weapons-in-2019/

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