Sun, May 23, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Brazil-China business ties build on immigration


Paul Liu was 10 years old when his family landed in Sao Paulo from China's Shandong province in 1960, part of last wave of immigrants moving to a colorful country blending African, European, Lebanese and Japanese cultures.

Liu, now president of the Brazil-China Chamber of Commerce, has become an intermediary between two developing nations whose growing economies remain marked by widespread poverty.

"My knowledge of the two countries allowed me to be an intermediary, although at first there were difficulties," Liu said.

In 2001, Liu founded the chamber of commerce, which now boasts more than 200 members, including banks, industries and law firms.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva headed for China Friday with some 300 business people and government ministers, in a bid to cement political and commercial ties between the two countries.

The chamber publishes a bimonthly, bilingual magazine and is preparing a special edition on Lula's trip to Beijing and Shanghai.

Brazilian airliner Varig plans to begin direct flights to China in August.

About 200,000 ethnic Chinese live in Brazil, including 70,000 from Taiwan. Most live in the industrial region of Sao Paulo, but many also live in the tri-border region of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

Many came to Brazil illegally, but an amnesty law in 1998 made them legal.

Although the largest wave of Chinese immigrants arrived in the 1950s, many had arrived years earlier. A few hundred Chinese were brought to Brazil by the Portuguese crown in 1810 to plant tea in the colony, but the enterprise failed.

A plan to bring Chinese immigrants to Brazil to make up for the abolition of slavery, in 1888, failed amid racist fears of a negative impact on the Brazilian population.

In Brazil, Liu's family had a business and sent him to a presbytarian university, where he earned a civil engineering degree and taught for 15 years.

"My parents arrived from a difficult situation, but they saw Brazil as a country with a future," said Liu, who returned to China for the first time in 1988 after he founded an electronics company.

The Chinese population in Brazil remains discreet, although the death of one man in the custody of Brazilian authorities last year prompted Chinese-Brazilians to speak out.

Chan Kim Chang, 46, appeared to have been tortured after being detained at the Rio de Janeiro airport for trying to travel to the US with US$30,500 in his luggage. He had sold his shop and was on his way to San Diego, California.

Six prison guards were arrested in connection with Chang's death. Prison authorities said his injuries resulted from his loss of self control while under custody.

About 15,000 Chinese come to Brazil from China every month, many with business visas.

But talks are underway to encourage more travel by issuing more tourism visas.

"One only makes business with a place one is already familiar with," Liu said.

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