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BRICS School: Brazil Needs Lessons From The China Model

The construction of the Shenzhen section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong High-speed Railway in China.
The construction of the Shenzhen section of Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong High-speed Railway in China.
Evandro Menezes De Carvalho

SÂO PAULO — The Chinese government is already making its first plans to celebrate the centenary of two momentous events in the country's history. Seven years from now, in 2021, the nation will mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party of China. Then in 2049, the country will celebrate the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1949 by Mao Zedong.

The two dates also help define the horizon of the reforms being implemented by the current government: the establishment of priority areas of development and free-trade zones, the end of the one-child policy, and the investments in the country's infrastructure and urbanization, as well as a series of administrative reforms.

Three aspects of the Chinese method to govern deserve notice by other leaders around the world. Firstly, the fact that government's initiatives are tested via pilot-projects before being implemented on a national scale. This allows Beijing to gain time and valuable experience in assessing the strong points and the shortcomings of a project.

Secondly, China focuses much of its energy in the country's research centers. Such a model of governance is at the root of the concept of scientific development that is ever more central in the public discourse by the country's leaders.

Finally, the reforms are carried out primarily with future generations in mind. "Each generation will reap what the former generation has sown," goes the Chinese saying. This explains why the successive political circles followed, to a certain extent, the *generational logic.

Some will say that the Chinese government is only efficient because it is a dictatorial regime, and thus takes decisions and executes them without any obstacle. Reality however is not that simple.

Democracy's risks

There always are obstacles. Corruption is the one that concerns the current government the most. Besides, China is not a dictatorship in the way that the democratic West usually pictures it. China is governed by a college of authorities, with alternations in power. The current rulers indeed are aiming to improve the judicial institutions as the population is seeing levels of development and openness unprecedented since the founding of the People's Republic.

In Brazil, the situation is quite different. True, we are a democracy, we have one of the world's biggest economies — and we are in an election year. The potential candidates for the Presidency speak of nothing else than improving the efficiency in the management of the country's affairs. And right they are. After all, planning and executing projects aimed at improving the living conditions of the population has hardly been Brazil's strongpoint.

In the debate on the administrations' management of state power, we would do well to learn from China: we could be more open to institutional experiments before implementing permanent changes across the whole territory, which would reduce the risks of wasting resources and having to rewrite bad legislation.

We could increase the participation of Brazilian research centers in the planning and monitoring of government policies, giving increased legitimacy to the decisions that are taken. And finally, we could take a real pledge to improve our citizens' future with long-term plans protected from the vicissitudes of politics.

But that would still not be enough. The massive demonstrations across Brazil last year sent an important alert to the entire political class, and tensions still vivid today. More efficiency in administration must come with more democracy, so that one favors the other.

An inefficient democracy could instead have the opposite effect, paving the way for authoritarian governments. Not even China is going in that direction anymore.

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The Problem With Always Blaming Climate Change For Natural Disasters

Climate change is real, but a closer look at the science shows there are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters. It is important to raise awareness about the long-term impact of global warming, but there's a risk in overstating its role in the latest floods or fires.

People on foot, on bikes, motorcycles, scooters and cars navigate through a flooded street during the day time.

Karachi - People wade through flood water after heavy rain in a southern Pakistani city

Xinhua / ZUMA
Axel Bojanowski


BERLIN — In September, thousands of people lost their lives when dams collapsed during flooding in Libya. Engineers had warned that the dams were structurally unsound.

Two years ago, dozens died in floods in western Germany, a region that had experienced a number of similar floods in earlier centuries, where thousands of houses had been built on the natural floodplain.

Last year saw more than 1,000 people lose their lives during monsoon floods in Pakistan. Studies showed that the impact of flooding in the region was exacerbated by the proximity of human settlements, the outdated river management system, high poverty rates and political instability in Pakistan.

There are many factors that contribute to weather-related disasters, but one dominates the headlines: climate change. That is because of so-called attribution studies, which are published very quickly after these disasters to highlight how human-caused climate change contributes to extreme weather events. After the flooding in Libya, German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung described climate change as a “serial offender," while the Tageszeitung wrote that “the climate crisis has exacerbated the extreme rainfall."

The World Weather Attribution initiative (WWA) has once again achieved its aim of using “real-time analysis” to draw attention to the issue: on its website, the institute says its goal is to “analyse and communicate the possible influence of climate change on extreme weather events." Frederike Otto, who works on attribution studies for the WWA, says these reports help to underscore the urgent need for climate action. They transform climate change from an “abstract threat into a concrete one."

In the immediate aftermath of a weather-related disaster, teams of researchers rush to put together attribution studies – “so that they are ready within the same news cycle," as the New York Times reported. However, these attribution studies do not meet normal scientific standards, as they are published without going through the peer-review process that would be undertaken before publication in a specialist scientific journal. And that creates problems.

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