Brazil and China
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How Brazil is forging closer ICT ties with China

Bnamericas
How Brazil is forging closer ICT ties with China

Brazil and China have strengthened ties in matters related to communications, science, technology and innovation through a series of bilateral deals.

They were signed during President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s visit to China on April 12-14.

The set of agreements in the ICT area is among the most important ever signed by Brazil with a trading partner, a communications ministry source told BNamericas, speaking on conditions of anonymity.

From a geopolitical perspective, the agreements send a clear signal of the countries’ intentions to work closely together, at a time of strong rivalry and high tensions between the Asian giant and the US.

SATELLITES

The agreements include the development of a new earth observation satellite, CBERS-6.

A complementary protocol mentions the joint development of CBERS-6, details the overall development framework and states that CBERS-6 should be launched in 2028, from China. Its tracking, telemetry and control should be similar to CBERS-4A, which was the last satellite launched, in December 2019.

As with the other satellites in the program, there will be a 50-50 split between the two countries.

The China Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) program is decades old and the first satellite dates back to 1999. Since then, six satellites have been launched: CBERS-1, 2, 2B, 3, 4 and 4A, all from Tayuan in China. In 2013, a CBERS satellite crashed during the launch.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

The science ministries of China and Brazil inked an MOU that covers research and innovation.

It includes strategic objectives and alluding to cooperation in nanotechnology, clean energy and AI. Other areas included are smart cities, ICT, digital economy, and industry 4.0.

A second MOU signed by the ministries mentions: the “development of 5G mobile communication technologies, as well as key technologies and applications in next-generation communication technologies.” In other words, 6G.

It also includes “key technologies,” citing algorithms, patterns and application scenarios in AI, as well as digital transformation and digital technology, “especially IoT and AI” in industry, health, cities and agribusiness.

At a time when AI generates headlines due to the impact of ChatGPT, the technology was arguably the most mentioned in the deals.

The MOU also mentions partnerships in terms of algorithms, cybersecurity and application scenarios involving quantum technologies.

In the digital economy area, an MOU signed by the countries’ ministries of trade and development call for partnerships and exchanges that includes the private sector in the fields of AI, 5G, financial payments, private networks, and smart cities.

TELECOM

Brazilian sector regulator Anatel and the communications ministry inked an MOU with China’s IT and industry ministry for the exchange of best practices in regulatory affairs and joint development of several areas, including 5G, IoT and AI. 

One of the items in the MOU calls for the “deployment of communications infrastructure, especially broadband networks and datacenters.” Another mentions joint initiatives to bolster integrity and security of communications networks.

The MOUs represent a U-turn from the policies of the administration of former president Jair Bolsonaro, who was a close US ally and saw Chinese equipment and networks with suspicion due to security and espionage concerns.

While not vetoing Huawei, ZTE and other Chinse firms as 5G suppliers in Brazil, the Bolsonaro government did include in the terms of 2021’s 5G spectrum auction the development of a new, segregated network

This network must be built from scratch for the exclusive use of federal government agencies and shuts out Chinese companies as equipment suppliers. 

On his trip, Lula visited the facilities of Huawei, which is a key supplier to several carriers and business sectors in Brazil.

It is not yet known how Lula and Anatel will advance with the project that they inherited from Bolsonaro, and which already has funds set aside by the operators for its development.

What is clear is that Lula will return from China, Brazil's biggest trading partner, with a suitcase full of agreements in a wide range of sectors that will strengthen existing partnerships and launch new ones. It is quite a contrast to Lula's February visit to US President Joe Biden in Washington, which generated few MOUs and strategic agreements.

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