In the latest incident to strain ties between Brazil and China, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub implied China could be behind the contagion. “Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis?” he wrote on Twitter on Friday. “Who in Brazil is allied with this infallible plan for world domination?”
In the original Portuguese, his tweet substituted the letter “r” with a capital “L” – “BLazil” – in a style commonly used to ridicule a Chinese accent.
The Chinese embassy in Brasilia condemned Weintraub’s “absurd and despicable” comment, calling it “highly racist.” “The Chinese government expects an official explanation from Brazil,” said Ambassador Yang Wanming.
O lado chinês aguarda uma declaração oficial do lado brasileiro sobre as palavras feitas pelo min. da educação, membro do governo brasileiro. Nós somos cientes de que nossos povos estão do mesmo lado ao resistir às palavras racistas e salvaguardar nossa amizade. @ItamaratyGovBr https://t.co/etYsXA48yw
— Yang Wanming (@WanmingYang) April 6, 2020
Translation: The Chinese [government] awaits an official statement from the Brazilian [administration] on the declarations made by the Minister of Education … We are aware that our people are on the same side in resisting racism and safeguarding our friendship.
Weintraub said in an interview he stood by his tweet and called on China to do more to help fight the pandemic. “If they [China] sell us 1,000 ventilators, I’ll get down on my knees in front of the embassy, apologise, and say I was an idiot,” he told Radio Bandeirantes.
Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said last week that Brazil is finding it challenging to acquire ventilators and other vital health materials from China, claiming some of its orders were cancelled without explanation. The spat comes as Brazil, like many countries, is keen to acquire additional medical equipment from China to deal with the deadly virus.
Since the emergence of Covid-19, relations between Brazil and China have deteriorated especially by a series of tweets by President Jair Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo. Eduardo Bolsonaro lambasted the Chinese “dictatorship” for its handling of the pandemic.
Earlier, Bolsonaro had tweeted about the “Chinese virus”, a phrase that infuriated Beijing. That prompted China’s consul general in Rio de Janeiro, Li Yang, to ask Eduardo Bolsonaro in an opinion column in Brazilian newspaper O Globo: “Are you really that naive and ignorant?”