JPRI Working Paper No. 113 (November 2007) China and Brazil: Commercial Success Amidst International Tensions by Loro Horta
Introduction Brazil and the People's Republic of China (PRC) established diplomatic relations on August 15, 1974. Since then relations have developed rather smoothly albeit uneventfully. Until the early 1990s China showed very little interest in Brazil, despite the fact that in November, 1993, both nations signed a strategic partnership. Relations consisted primarily of a few official visits, mostly from the Chinese side, and some minor cultural exchanges. Trade between the two nations remained insignificant well into the late 1990s. Brazil's lack of interest in China was perhaps greater, as shown by the very limited number of Brazilian officials visiting China when compared to the number of official visits paid by the Chinese side. However, the October, 2002 election of President Luis Inacio Da Silva (also known as Lula) has led to a reinvigoration of the once dormant strategic partnership. Trade between the two nations has risen an average of 50 percent a year since 2003, reaching an impressive $20 billion by mid-2007. With both nations closely cooperating in sensitive areas such as satellite and rocket systems, many have begun to talk of an emerging alliance between these two third-world giants. However, despite the rhetoric of cooperation emanating from both Beijing and Brasilia, serious tensions and reservations are fast emerging that greatly undermine the prospects of such an alliance.
The Phase of Polite Lack of Interest The nearly three decades of polite lack of interest were the result of both domestic and international factors shaping the foreign policies of both countries. Starting in the late 1970s China initiated its economic reforms and openness policy, with the aim of reversing the damage done by three decades of failed central planning and the excesses of Maoism. China's main focus was economic and domestic political consolidation, and it therefore had little interest in faraway areas of the world such as Latin America. After achieving some of its domestic political and economic goals, China's foreign policy priorities moved to its immediate region, where its growing power and wealth could be utilized. The Asia Pacific region and great powers such as the United States remained China's main priorities.
As China's economy continued to surge ahead for nearly three decades, its needs for raw materials, in particular energy resources such as gas and oil, grew. China began to look to other regions of the globe for alternative sources of energy as well as markets and new areas for investment for its rising business class. These were the forces that in the late 1990s pushed the Chinese into Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. But Latin America still lagged due to its geographical remoteness and the absence of any meaningful past links to China.
On the Brazilian side pretty much the same factors delayed fully grown Brazilian-Chinese ties. Well until the early 1990s Brazil faced serious domestic challenges as a result of its transition from decades of military dictatorship to democracy. The enormous distances separating both countries added further difficulties. The differences in geography also mean that the two nations have very different priorities, with Brazil a regional power focusing on maintaining its regional influence and fostering good ties with its only challenger in the region, the United States. In the absence of any concrete common strategic interests, issues such as trade and economics tend to be the foundation to build closer relations. However, trade and economic exchanges between the Brazil and China remained insignificant until the late 1990s and so did their overall relationship.
Ironically, the same policies and factors that kept both nations apart for nearly three decades were to create the necessary conditions for much closer ties. In both China and Brazil the focus on economic reform and domestic stability created the necessary conditions for their new relationship. In China Deng Xiao Ping's visionary reforms allowed the PRC to emerge by the end of the 20th century as one of the world's largest economies, desperate for new outlets for its newly found wealth and confidence. As of 2007, China has become the world's fourth largest economy with an economic output of $2.26 trillion. In Brazil the economic reforms of President Fernando Enrique Cardoso paved the way for its emergence, in 2006, as the world's 10th largest economy.
Two Giants Finally Meet As the power of both nations expanded so did the scope of their interests, thus eliminating the tyranny of distance that kept them apart for decades. In 2005, Brazil's trade with China reached the $10 billion mark, making it China's most important trading partner in Latin America. A year later trade between the two nations grew to an impressive $20 billion, with Presidents Hu and Lula pledging to double it in the next three years. As of 2006, 143 Chinese companies were in Brazil, while Brazil had 542 projects in China. By early 2007 China had become Brazil's third largest trading partner, with Brazil enjoying a trade surplus of $1.48 billion.
On the energy front, state owned Sinopec is investing up to $1.7 billion in the construction of a 1365 kilometer natural gas pipeline from Macaes to Salvador. Beijing has also shown interest in Brazil's large uranium reserves and has invited Brazilian companies to participate in the construction of 10 new nuclear power plants in China. There have been concerns in recent years over the revival of the Brazilian nuclear research program. Fears of a Brazil armed with nuclear weapons date back to the 1980s, when Brasilia considered acquiring nuclear weapons as a way to enhance its prestige and transform itself into a world power. The August 8, 2005 announcement by Brazilian Minister of Science and Technology Sergio Rezende that Brazil was going to enrich uranium for export and that China would be one of the destinations contributed to further negative speculation. However, there is no concrete evidence that Brazil intends to acquire nuclear weapons, let alone cooperate with the Chinese in their development. It should also be noted that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has authorized Brazil to enrich uranium up to a 5 percent level.
In May, 2004, Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobras, opened a Beijing office after agreements on partnerships in oil exploration, production, and refining, and fuel sales were signed. A year later another major deal between Petrobras and Sinochem International Oil was signed. Petrobras is to sell 12 million barrels of crude oil to the Chinese, a contract worth US$600 million. Petrobras is confident that the increasing Chinese demand for oil will raise the value of its exports to $1billion in the very near term. In August, 2007, China's largest steel maker, the Baosteel Group, signed a memorandum of understanding with Brazil's Companhia Vale do Rio to build a steel pant in Brazil. The plant will be located in the state of Espirito Santo in the southeastern region of the country and is expected to have an initial capacity of 5 million tons a year. The Baosteel Group will be the majority share-holder in the joint venture, with 80 percent of the stake. According to Charles Tang president of the Brazil-China Chamber of Commerce and Industry, other Chinese companies are likely to follow Baosteel's example in the near future. Other major joint ventures include a $1.5 billion bauxite and aluminum project by the Brazilian company Minerçao Curimbaba and China Aluminum Industrial Investment in the state of Minas Gerais. Minerçao Curimbaba is a small company with an annual out put of 140,000 metric tons of processed ore, therefore the Chinese are expected to fund most, if not all, of the project.
Development of Brazil's infrastructure is an area where China has great ambitions. Chinese companies have won significant contracts to invest in roads, railways, airports, ports, bridges, and major commercial projects. China's most ambitious venture is to build a massive transcontinental railway linking the Brazilian port City of Santos on the Atlantic with the Chilean city of Antofagasta on the Pacific coast, a mammoth 8,000 kilometers traversing the Andes. With the construction of this transcontinental railway China wants to speed up trade between Latin America and Asia by bypassing both the route around Cape Horn and the Panama Canal.
Brazilian companies have also been increasing their investments in China. Major Brazilian companies such as Mecanica Pesada do Brazil (Brazil Heavy Mechanics) have won contracts in the Three Gorges dam project. Mecanica Pesada is involved in major aspects of the construction, such as building the components for eight turbines, one of the most vital elements of the project. In March, 2007, Roger Agnelli, chief executive officer of the Brazilian iron ore giant Companhia Vale de Rio Doce (CVRD), announced the company's plan to invest a massive $6.5 billion to boost its operations in China, in particularly its nickel and coal mining operations. CVRD's most recent investment was $65 million in a nickel mine in Dalian with an estimated initial output capacity of 32,000 tons of nickel a year. CVRD's iron ore output is expected to reach 300 million tons by late 2007, with a third of the production most likely destined for the China market.
China and Brazil have also launched three jointly developed satellites, and a fourth one is under development, with the PRC funding 70 percent of the costs while Brazil covers the remaining 30 percent. Brazil's major aviation and arms manufacturing company ENBRIA and China Aviation Industry Corporation II (AVIC II) have jointly developed a medium-sized turbojet aircraft. The plant is located in Harbin and has a reported capacity to produce annually 20 to 25, 30-50 seat aircraft with a flying range of 3000 kilometers and a ceiling of 11,000 meters. As of 2005, 20 aircraft have been sold to Chinese airlines, with China proposing to buy another 90 in coming years. China is today Brazil's fifth largest export market for automobiles, with General Motors do Brazil and bus-and-minibus manufacturer Marcopolo in the lead. In 2006, Brazilian automobile exports to China reached $1.4 billion.
There have also been reports emanating from U.S. intelligence sources claming that both countries have been cooperating on sensitive military technology in areas such as ballistic missiles and advanced communications. Considering the advance status of both nations' military-industrial complexes and the reluctance of Western nations to supply developing nations -- particularly rising powers -- with sensitive technology, such a possibility should not be dismissed. Given the dual nature of many of these technologies, Brazilian and Chinese cooperation in fields such as civilian space technology and aviation further reinforces such a scenario.
Military Cooperation Another area of growing cooperation between the two countries is in the area of education and training for mid- and senior-ranking officers. Since the late 1990s Brazilian military officers and defense officials have began attending various courses at People's Liberation Army academies. Several Brazilian officers with the rank of Colonel have graduated from the PLA's most prestigious academy, the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army (PLANDU). Most Brazilian officers attend the NDU flagship course, the one year defense and strategy course for senior military officers, but also some area-specific courses such as the recently initiated one-month course on the Caribbean and Latin America designed for flag officers and their civilian counterparts.
At the junior level a small number of Brazilian officers have attended specialized PLA schools, such as for logistics, artillery, special forces and intelligence. A small number has also attended Command and Staff College courses. Brazilian personnel have also taken Chinese language courses at PLA schools and some civilian universities. From the Chinese side a significantly smaller number of officers have gone to Brazil for military education. This is primarily due to the difficulty of finding Chinese officers sufficiently proficient in the Portuguese language to attend advanced military schools such as the Staff College and strategic level courses. Another impediment is perhaps the reluctance of the PLA to expose its officers to a foreign environment for a long period of time, particularly its young and junior officers who are more vulnerable to the vices of foreign barbarians.
Official visits by military and defense officials are be becoming more frequent and taking place at a higher level. Since 2003, 25 Brazilian senior military officers and defense officials have visited the PRC in various capacities and Brasilia has expanded its military attaché office in Beijing to cope with the increase in defense cooperation. The most senior Brazilian defense officials to visit China in recent years included the Brazilian Minister of National Defense, Francisco Roberto de Albuquerque, who made an 8-day visit to China in November, 2003 and a second visit in April, 2005; and the Brazilian Chief of the Defense Forces, who went in August, 2007. Other officials visiting China include the Commander of the Brazilian Army, the Chief of the Army Staff, the Air Force Commander and various other defense officials with the ranking of colonel and above. From the Chinese side important visitors to Brazil include the Minister of National Defense, the Deputy Chief of the PLA General Staff, the Commander of the Chinese Navy, the Commander of the PLA Air Force, the President of the National Defense University and the Political Commissar of the General Armaments Department.
Strategic Interests The agricultural sector has emerged as one of the most important and lucrative areas of Sino-Brazilian relations. Brazil is one of China's main suppliers of beef, poultry, and soy beans. In 2006, Brazil exported to China 11.3 million tons of soy beans, an increase of 50 percent from the previous year, making the country the PRC's main soy-bean supplier. In 2003, China became the largest importer of Brazilian agricultural products importing $1.82 billion worth of products.  By 2005, Chinese imports from Brazil's agricultural sector reached $2.4 billion. Since 2003, the Brazilian Farming Institute and the Chinese Academy for Agricultural Sciences have signed three agreements on scientific and technological research. Brazil has been assisting China in advanced agriculture technology such as gene-modification and biotechnology, better breeding techniques for improved cattle and meat and milk production, interbreeding and refinement of species and crop science. Considering the very advanced stage of Brazilian agricultural science China has been the biggest beneficiary of such exchanges.
Brazil is Latin America's most influential country and its presence is increasingly being felt well beyond the Americas. In the last decade Brazil's presence in Africa has increased dramatically, in many instances replacing former colonial powers that traditionally dominated many of the new African states upon independence. Angola, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo are cases in point. Coincidently, Brazil's influence has been growing in precisely the same regions where China also has vital interests. For instance Angola is China's single major oil supplier and its largest trading partner on the continent. The confluence and expansion of their interests has led to increased coordination between Beijing and Brasília on major policy issues.
China has been sympathetic to Brazil's aspirations to become more than just a regional power and has supported Brazil's ambitions to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It has also supported Brazil's aspirations for high posts in other international organizations. Both nations have closely coordinated positions on major issues such as trade, the environment, human rights and the role of the UN. The two countries share similar positions on major international issues such as the alleged unfair international trade system, barriers and tariffs unjust to the third world and other issues such as Iraq. Brazil is a staunch adherent of the one-China policy and subscribes to the Chinese principle of non- interference in the domestic affairs of others.
Brazil, with a population of 186 million, a fast growing economy, and a highly developed industrial and technological sector, is by far South America's dominant power. The only real challenge to its status is the United States, particularly in light of the 2001-2002 economic collapse of Argentina and Brazil's successful courtship of Chile and Bolivia. As such, Brazil sees in its strategic partnership with China an opportunity to balance American influence in the region while enhancing its own. As Brazilian President Lula Da Silva noted in an interview to the BBC: "China and Brazil don't have overwhelming muscle, but by cooperating they do improve their position."
Brazil also hopes that playing the China card will make Washington more accommodating and sensitive to Brazilian aspirations. In Brazil, as in the rest of Latin America, anti-American sentiment is nothing new. For its part the PRC aims to use its strategic partnership with Brazil as part of its overall policy to balance the U.S.'s so-called hegemony by diversifying its relations. However, energy resources and trade seem to be the main motivators behind China's policy towards Brazil.
An Alliance of Third-World Giants? Some observers may therefore overestimate the instances of cooperation while neglecting many of the tensions and limitations in this bilateral relationship. The talk of an alliance between two so-called third-world giants needs to be taken with a certain amount of caution. The term strategic partnership is vague and susceptible to many different interpretations, to the point of becoming vulgarized and having no real meaning. As of 2006, China had signed strategic partnerships with over 20 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The PRC has signed strategic partnerships with nations such as India, with which it is also engaged in serious strategic and military competition. Great Britain, a close ally of the United States and one of the strongest supporters of the EU arms embargo on China, is also a so-called strategic partner of the PRC. This is not to suggest that all cases of strategic partnerships with China are meaningless and nothing more than a pompous diplomatic term. But one must raise some caution over the fluidity of their meaning.
While there are many positive aspects to Sino-Brazilian relations and both countries have cooperated in various fields, their relationship is far from being free of tensions. Many in Brazil, particularly among the local business elites, feel that Brazil is opening too fast and too much to the PRC, without seeing any real reciprocity from the Chinese side. For instance, the multibillion dollar deal between Baosteel and CVRD, initially thought to be a beneficial arrangement for both sides, has come under increasing attack from Brazilian economic elites and academics. The critics argue that opening the Brazilian steel sector, the largest in the world, to a rising foreign power without a similar gesture from the Chinese side, was detrimental to Brazilian interests and threatens its national security. Complaints over Chinese high tariffs and other unfair practices remain a constant irritant.
Many believe that the Lula administration was precipitate in recognizing China's status as a market economy. For instance Brasilia could have demanded the reduction of certain tariffs and the expansion of export quotas for certain Brazilian products such as meat. In an interview to The Herald Tribune Joze Gomes da Silva, president of the Brazilian Textile Association lashed out "The openness of the Brazilian economy can't just lie on opening imports to every country while not getting anything in return." He went on to add: "We run the risk of being overrun with imports while we, as producers, are not ready to compete with low-cost goods from countries like China."
In early October 2005, Brazilian Minister for Trade Luis Fernando Furlan went on a three-day visit to Beijing to complain about what in practical terms amounts to Chinese dumping. The minister urged the Chinese authorities to limit imports into Brazil of cheap Chinese commodities such as shoes, textiles and toys in order to protect indigenous businesses. On September 13, 2006, Brazil announced it was taking measures to limit the entry of certain Chinese products, mainly textiles and shoes, with the possibility of further restrictions and the expansion of the number of targeted products not being ruled out. Despite these complains the increasing trade surplus in Brazil's favor over the past two years may alleviate some of the tensions.
The technological and scientific cooperation of the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) -- the joint project that has so far launched three satellites -- is frequently pointed to as a model for future Sino-Brazilian cooperation. However, even this supposedly "perfect" example of genuine third-world solidarity is not free of controversy and friction. Some Brazilian and American sources claim that the Brazilian side has grown increasingly frustrated with its Chinese partners. During the project the Chinese have been always eager and insistent on getting the maximum amount of information on Brazilian technology while at the same time hiding as much as possible their own -- "jogo baixo", a Portuguese expression meaning low moral behavior.
An angry Brazilian official commented to me, "They would ask all sorts of questions, then come back later and ask you the same questions plus a few more. And the game goes on and on. I guess it's a Chinese tactic to saturate you. But, when you try to get something from them in return, they give you "' bobagen ,'" a Brazilian expression similar to rubbish or silly things. Another source of great irritation is the alleged " arrogancia e petulancia dos chineses " -- the arrogance and petulance of the Chinese. While gaining immensely from Brazilian scientists' inputs, the Chinese seem always reluctant to acknowledge such contributions. "We never teach them anything," says a frustrated Brazilian engineer. "They already knew it, they are the ones who teach us, we are just a bunch of moloides (idiots) who know nothing."
Despite being a developing nation with some serious social challenges, Brazil possesses a highly developed industrial and technological sector. Its military industries are capable of producing high quality military hardware such as multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), which are sold to the Malaysian army; modern tanks such as the prototype Osorio, which -- despite its failure as a venture -- most experts agreed was "an excellent tank;" and various other naval and electronic systems. Brazilian excellence is not restricted to the military sector, with various civilian enterprises capable of producing complex and sophisticated products that can compete even in the most demanding markets such as Europe. This was clearly demonstrated in June, 2007, when Brazil signed a contract with the German national air-carrier Lufthansa to build 40 jetliners for its fleet -- a deal worth $2.7 billion.
The advanced nature of the Brazilian military and civilian industries makes it a prime target for PRC Intel operations. Unlike China, which faces an EU arms embargo and has no possibility of access to U.S. and Israeli technologies, Brazil has been relatively free to purchase pretty much any system it desires from anywhere it chooses, so long as it is willing to pay. The acquisition of advance Western technologies and the subsequent modifications and improvements made by highly trained indigenous scientists make Brazil a backdoor for PRC acquisition of Western technologies. Because many Brazilian components are either modifications or improvements of Western technologies, particularly American ones, by cooperating with Brazil, China is able to study and acquire information about Western technology. But this, it seems, is not what really irritates the Brazilians. In any joint venture one enters there is something to gain and it's normal that the Chinese would use the opportunity to acquire such knowledge. However, these gains should be minimally symmetric: both sides must see some benefits. Brazilian frustration lies in the fact that the Chinese eagerness to acquire Brazil's Western based technologies is only matched by their determination to give as little and as irrelevant information as possible in return.
Conclusion Despite such contentious issues, Sino-Brazilian relations are likely to strengthen in the coming years. On the energy front, Brazil is well placed to become one of China's main suppliers of iron ore, steel, nickel, uranium and perhaps even gas and oil. The increasing affluence of Chinese society and the resulting improvement in eating habits create ample opportunities for Brazil's agricultural sector. Brazilian investment in China is certain to continue to rise and the trade surplus in its favor is likely to mitigate some of the problems previously discussed. What seems to be changing is the political climate of the Sino-Brazilian relationship. From an initial phase of euphoria and naïve idealism, Brazilian attitudes towards China are now ones of cautious optimism and pragmatism. The rhetoric and glamorous statements of a third-world alliance to fight the political and economic injustices of the West are no longer so prevalent. The idealist Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva who so enthusiastically proclaimed in 2004 that the Mercosur-China alliance would create a "healthy multipolarity" in trade, and would “strengthen the developing world's campaign to eliminate agricultural subsidies in rich nations," seems to have realized that his idealism is not shared by his Chinese friends.
China is an extremely pragmatic power and Lula is a remarkable man who fought in the underground against the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil until 1986 and a hero for millions of Brazilian workers. He has headed the PT, or workers' party, for more than three decades, twenty of which it spent in opposition. As a union leader he strongly believed in third-world solidarity as a way to improve conditions of the working classes in the developing world. However, Lula, the most enthusiastic supporter of the alliance with China, seems to have realized that there is a great difference between the world of ideas and the world of policy. As noted by a Brazilian Ambassador, "He was bitten badly so now he is very cautious and pragmatic. He realizes he is the president of a large nation and not of a workers' union any more."
Both nations will certainly continue to cooperate, for they have many common interests; and these common interests will sustain the relationship. However, pragmatism and realism will increasingly be the essence of Sino-Brazilian relations. As the old Brazilian saying goes, amigos amigos negocios a parte , friends are friends, but business is business. In other words, there is no such a thing as friends in business.
LORO HORTA comes from a Portuguese/Timorese diplomatic family and is currently a research associate and PH.D. candidate at the S. Rajartnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technology University, in Singapore. He is also a graduate of the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army (PLANDU) and the Asia Pacific Centre for Security Studies (APCSS) in Hawaii. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
 Zhao Huaipu, "Relations Between China and the Major Powers" in Yang Fuchang ed, Contemporary China and its Foreign Policy , Beijing: World Affairs Press, 2002; and Zhang Quingmin, "China's Relations with Neighboring Countries" in ibid. [Return to Text]
 Macau Hoje "A World Apart: China/Brazil trade reaches $20 billion" 27/09/2007, in Portuguese; and K. Dambaugh and M. Sullivan, "China's Growing Interest in Latin America," CRS Report for Congress, April 20, 2005. [Return to Text]
 Brazil-China Chamber of Commerce data released in early 2007. [Return to Text]
 The author visited the Baosteel main factory in Shanghai in October 2006 and talked with various company officials. See also "Baosteel and CVDR settle agreement on 2007 steel price," Peoples Daily, December 22, 2006. [Return to Text]
 "CVRD to boost investment in China," China Daily, February 9, 2007; China National Space Administration, "China's Space Activities in 2006," White Paper, October 10, 2006. [Return to Text]
 "China-Brazil second earth recourse satellite," China Space Technology Newsletter, No. 231, August 10, 2000, The Ministry of Science and Technology of the People's Republic of China. [Return to Text]
 Joseph Cirincione, Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002, pp 352-355; and Michael V. Smith, "China's Space Program an Overview " CRS Report for Congress, October 21, 2003. [Return to Text]
 Loro Horta, "Defense and Military Education: A dimension of Chinese power," The Power and Interest News Report , September 29, 2006. [Return to Text]
 Interviews conducted by the author with various members of the PLA educational establishment during the author's one year stay at the PLANDU from August, 2006, to July, 2007. [Return to Text]
 "Brazil seeks to increase agricultural exports to China," Peoples Daily, November 4, 2003. [Return to Text]
 "China, Brazil issue joint communique," Peoples Daily, May 25, 2004; "Brazil sees market economy in China," China Daily May 25, 2004 and "Brazil wins China trade support," BBC NEWS, May 28, 2004. [Return to Text]
 "India, China hoping to shape the world order together," The Washington Post, April 12, 2005; "China-India strategic partnership," The Financial Express, November 19, 2006; and "China, UK vow to develop strategic partnership: Joint statement," Xinhua, May 10, 2004. [Return to Text]
 "China and Brazil: Falling out of love," The Economist, August 4, 2005; and Matt Moffet, "Brazil regrets its China affair," The Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2005. [Return to Text]
 William Pesek Jr., "Brazil pays price for China pact," The Herald Tribune , October 2, 2005. [Return to Text]
 "China ameaca retaliar se Brazil adotar salvagardas" (China threatens to retaliate if Brazil adopts safeguards), A Folha (Brazil's largest newspaper), June 31, 2005. [Return to Text]
 The author interviewed several Brazilian officials, including academics, diplomats, engineers and military officers, some of them based in China. The sensitive nature of the discussions precludes the author from disclosing their names. The author also visit various Chinese regions where Brazil has major investments, such as Harbin where the jetliner plant is based, Dalian where CVRD has mining projects, and Hubei were various Brazilian companies are involved in the Three Gorges dam project. The author's most recent visit to China was in October, 2007. [Return to Text]
 The Military Balance 2007 , Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 363. [Return to Text]
 The author interviewed various Brazilian diplomats and other officials posted to Asia. The quotation is from a conversation with a Brazilian Ambassador who served in Australia and Southeast Asia and is an old friend of the author's family. [Return to Text]