China demands an explanation from Brazil after the right-wing government education minister linked the coronavirus pandemic with Beijing’s “world domination plan”, in a tweet that mimicked Chinese accents.
In the latest incident to strengthen relations between the two countries, minister Abraham Weintraub quipped China behind the global health crisis.
“Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis?” he wrote on Twitter Saturday. “Who in Brazil is allied with a perfect plan for world domination?”
In original Portuguese, the tweet replaced the letter “r” with the capital letter “L” – “BLazil” instead of “Brazil,” for example – with a style usually used to mock Chinese accents.
The Chinese embassy in Brazil condemned Weintraub’s tweet “unreasonable and despicable”, calling it “very racist”. “The Chinese government expects an official explanation from Brazil,” Ambassador Yang Wanming tweeted.
The dispute arose when Brazil, like many countries, hoped to get more medical equipment from China to deal with Covid-19.
Weintraub said in an interview that he supported his tweet and asked China to do more to help fight the pandemic. “If they [China] sell us 1,000 ventilators, I will kneel in front of the embassy, apologize and say I’m an idiot, “he told Radio Bandeirantes.
Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta said last week Brazil was struggling to get a ventilator and other vital health supplies from China, saying some of its orders were canceled without explanation.
The problem erupted online on Monday. The top trend on Twitter in Brazil is the hashtag #TradeBlockadeOnChinaNow.
Brazil, whose biggest trading partner is China, is the Latin American country hardest hit by the new coronavirus, with nearly 500 deaths and more than 11,000 confirmed cases so far.
Since the pandemic emerged, Brazil-China relations have been strained, especially by a series of tweets by President Jair Bolsonaro’s son Eduardo, a federal member of parliament. Eduardo Bolsonaro criticized China’s “dictatorship” for handling it in March.
Last week, he tweeted about “the Chinese virus”, a phrase that has angered Beijing and that the World Health Organization has advised against. It has also been used by US president Donald Trump.
That prompted the Chinese consul general in Rio de Janeiro, Li Yang, to ask Eduardo Bolsonaro in the opinion column in the Brazilian newspaper O Globo: “Are you really naive and stupid?”
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