The Brazilian government is currently negotiating with China to construct a satellite that would be used to monitor deforestation in the Amazon and observe the climate.
China’s space diplomacy with Brazil
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is set to visit Beijing and Shanghai between March 28th and 30th, where the satellite project will be discussed. Sources at the Planalto Palace and Itamaraty confirmed that the topic would be on the agenda. Additionally, Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation, Luciana Santos, will accompany the president on the trip.
China is seeking to woo Latin American countries, and Brazil is among those being courted, especially since Lula’s return to power. This has put Brazil in a difficult position, as it faces pressure from Joe Biden’s administration to remain allied with Western democracies. Furthermore, Lula’s recent visit to Washington failed to yield any significant announcements, leading many to believe that a relationship with Beijing could be a major investment over the next four years.
The agreement between Brazil and China stipulates that the new satellite will be free of military capabilities. However, the most significant innovation is that it will be equipped with radar technology, something that wasn’t included in prior initiatives.
This collaboration is part of the China–Brazil Earth Resources Satellite program (CBERS), which was established in 1988 to produce satellites for observing the Earth. The first satellite was sent into orbit in 1999, and the fourth was launched in 2019. However, the US government was wary of the growing ties between Brazil and China, and within 10 years of the first satellite, Brazilian companies were having difficulty procuring US-considered strategic components and parts.
The satellite marks the re-establishment of cooperation between the two countries after four years of tension due to the opposition of President Bolsonaro’s hostility toward China. The United States would not be happy with Brazil’s move toward China but then it itself pushed Brazil into China’s arms.