China - Interviews
Sung Tien Lo
Watershed - Most economists see China as a future power. You state that the country will not be a power like the United States or Germany. Why?
Sung Tien Lo - Certainly the economic and political opening up accelerated the great leap of development on a national scale, that is beyond debate. Wrong! The country accelerated just in the zones created by the government with great emphasis on port cities and around them within a radius of 200 kilometers. Cities like Qingdao, Ningbo, Zuhai, Xiamen and Shenzhen were created thanks to the mentors of the new economy, called market socialism. These cities, up to the middle of 1990, were just peasant villages. Following this practice, in less than 12 years, there arose megacities and thus their social megaproblems. This great leap fills the numbers and statistics of any global economist. But other areas that were not benefited by the economic opening up program – it is worth remembering that they make up 85% of the national territory – today and in the next 20 years what will they be??? Well... they will continue to be the China of yesterday. Thousands of towns that still have their squares and gardens, great monuments of the leader Mao Zedong; families that still hang up on their walls photos of the Great Helmsman; students who use red scarves on their necks and sing the national anthem every morning; sidewalks which still keep thousand of public toilets with no hygiene and millions of people spitting phlegm on the ground. Without doubt these 85% are not part of a world power. To be together with the Gs, it is necessary to correct all these vices and bad habits.
WS - A country can only be hegemonic if it is capable of influencing the world through its language, like England, France and the USA do. Will China manage to get the world to speak Mandarin?
STL - Mandarin rose together with globalization, that is a fact. I consider Mandarin as an official support dialect for the business world. It is interesting that the businessman or executive, expatriate or otherwise, speaks the basics of Mandarin with the help of the magnificent pin yin method, as a form of support of their day to day structure at the head of the company. Specifically to the area of International Relations I recommend that entrants start studying Mandarin as a third language option, right after English. China never was and is not fighting to be a homogeneous nation in culture and politics; today a price is paid which many times as political analyst I wonder it was worth it. There are over 300 dialects that are so different from each other, that Mandarin spoken even by the Chinese have regional accents. The peoples of the autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Tibet refuse to speak Mandarin, despite the Chinese Communist Party imposing the study of the official dialect in schools and even so, the various ethnics come across obstacles. If the CCP itself does not manage to achieve this hegemony, it will be very difficult to state that Mandarin will be spoken and will be a world leader language.
WS - The Brazil-China Alliance has a legal directorship which has lawyers and counselors for the Chinese community in the Metropolitan Region of Campinas. What services are most in demand? Are the Chinese troubled by Brazilian justice?
STL - I would not say troubled but I would say there is a cultural shock between peoples. Because of this, the social and legal directorships come into play to help the Chinese community, especially the novices those who have just arrived in the Metropolitan Region of Campinas. Our social department sends the children on to schools and guides the family to use a corporate health plan apart from monitoring the social life of the Chinese community in its integration with Brazilian society as citizens. The legal department prepares the new Chinese who have chosen to live here in Brazil for staying legally in the country, forwarding them to the federal, state and municipal organs. A recent example is the partnership of the Brazil-China Alliance with the Guardian Council of Campinas, in relation to young Chinese under 18 years of age through which we sponsor talks on Brazilian law, their rights and obligations.
WS - You are also a professor of Mandarin at UNICAMP. Is the Brazilian university student a good pupil? What are their greatest difficulties?
STL - Mandarin is very easy to learn providing you use the correct method, which is pin yin, a method that uses romanization to expresss and identify words in Mandarin. It has been used for 30 years and being very well accepted here in Brazil by our western students. There are no difficulties when one starts to use the elemantary logic and reasoning that the Chinese language has brought over thousands of years; it all becomes very easy and clear. In Mandarin there are practically no verbs and very little plural and singular, past and future. Come and try out this feat.
WS - In April, the Chinese government offered help to Brazil in organizing the Olympic games of 2016. Can this type of partnership bring any type of loss to the country or is it 100% aligned to our interests?
STL - I see it as being quite natural to offer this help with interests in partnerships. China already has experience in organizing the largest Olympic event of the planet and wants its largest partner in the BRICs, Brazil, to have enormous success. Obviously, there will be an exchange of procedures which should align them in bilateral commercial area, involving the Pre-Salt project and the construction of hydroelectric plants and other commercial procedures which are being developed by the Ministry of Development, Industry and Commerce.
WS - What are the greatest demands on the part of Brazilian businessmen on your consulting firm? Is Brazil prepared for doing business with China?
STL - Yes, my agenda of trips to China with Brazilian businessmen and industrialists has been six times a year and the most sought after segments by Brazilians are in the raw material segment like chemicals, mechanics and state of the art technology. Brazilian businessmen and industrialists have already been on the ground for at least 12 years, creating partnerships with Chinese manufacturers and there is an very cordial bilateral exchange. Brazil also receives the Chinese investor in the fields of communication technology, civil construction and in the academic sector involving the principal Brazilian and Chinese universities.
WS - What are the etiquette and the commercial postures that Brazilians should observe when negotiating with the Chinese?
STL - When handing over visiting cards or the firm’s card, one must always use two hands, that has the meaning of respect for his professional identity. The word “no” must whenever possible be avoided as a response, preferring a pleasant “yes”, that will revise the matter or the problem. Accepting an invitation for a business dinner, where the Chinese are used to negotiating while eating in restaurants, for it is a moment of happiness and to negotiate is a happy and healthy act. Avoid hugging and facial kissing, that embarrasses the Chinese businessman. In addition, many other points of etiquette – come and do a course on international etiquette….
WS - There are 78 Brazilian pilots flying in China presently. Apart from the traditional one, is this another sector in which we can enter and compete with China? Do we have the capability to do so?
STL - It is not competition but an exchange of skills, Chinese development is so fast that the government cannot manage to administer certain professional segments and thereby needs to import resources such as in the footwear, aeronautics and Brazilian gastronomy sectors, represented by 65 meat barbecue restaurants in China.
WS - Do the Chinese really like barbecue? Do you believe that the demand for this sort of food is going to increase in the coming years?
STL - Yes, today, May 7, I lunched in the barbecue grill of the Hotel Sofitel, in the Chinese city of Hefei, Anhui in the interior of China. This week I came to China on business accompanying Marcello Souza, an industrialist from the textile sector and in this city there is a barbecue grill with a Gaucho barbecue cook called Marcos, who has been living in China for 6 years. Marcos served us rump cut meat from Chinese cattle, just as good as Brazilian rump cut and the restaurant was full of Chinese. Moreover, when the Chinese go to Brazil they want to know and eat at Brazilian grills. We are only waiting for the signature of the Brazil-China procedure on the export of meat to China.
WS - In 2008 China advised that it had submitted 300 people to the death penalty. You believe that this number is in fact 3700. How is this number arrived at and how do you see the death penalty in China?
STL - A delicate matter. China has always had the death penalty and the CCP sees the death penalty as a way of containing violence and penal correction. My position as an educator, I am against the death penalty and I believe that whenever possible, the line of education must be used as a form of correction of an individual in relation to society. The question of numbers and statistics is lifted by several NGOs and widely divulged in the international media.
Interview by Rafael Gonçalves de Lima