Dr. Oliveira published in the Journal of Contemporary China

The Tenuous Co-Production of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Brazil and Latin America


Dr. Oliveira’s article “The Tenuous Co-Production of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Brazil and Latin America“, co-authored with Margaret Myers, has just been published in the Journal of Contemporary China.



China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) evolved from promotion of Eurasian connectivity into a catchall for Chinese foreign policy and infrastructure investments worldwide. Although usually portrayed as a top-down geopolitical project of the Chinese central government, this article argues the BRI is actually shaped by converging and diverging interests of a wide variety of actors within and outside China. In order to conceptualize the relational, contingent, and unstable emergence of the BRI in Latin America, the article emphasizes the process of co-production as a theoretical framework. It first analyzes how the BRI incorporated Latin America through policy and discourse analysis, then examines the multi-scalar and multi-sited co-production of Chinese-funded port and railroad infrastructures through interviews and public documents in Brazil.

Keywords: China; Brazil; Latin America; Belt and Road Initiative; Co-production; Infrastructure; Ports; Railroads; International Relations

The Journal of Contemporary China was established in 1992. It has become one of the most prominent interdisciplinary journals of Chinese studies, and since 2011 it has featured in the top quartertile of journals in political science, international relations, geography, planning, and development. It is one of the preeminent forums for research and debate about China’s Belt and Road Initiative, having published over fifty articles on this topic in the past five years.

For the full length article, see: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10670564.2020.1827358

Dr. Oliveira publishes a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies

Authoritarianism, Populism, Nationalism and Resistance in the Agrarian South

Dr. Oliveira’s article “Authoritarianism, Populism, Nationalism and Resistance in the Agrarian South” has just been published as the guest editor’s introduction to a special issue the Canadian Journal of Development Studies.

The article is co-authored with Ben McKay and Juan Liu, who also co-edited the special issue.

ABSTRACT: This special section contributes to the vibrant debates concerning the “new political moment” underway with regards to “authoritarian populism” and nationalism in the agrarian South. With neoliberal globalisation in crisis, nationalist-populist and authoritarian movements are gaining ground, often transforming state and class configurations in ways that appease landed, agro-industrial and political elites, while simultaneously seeking to neutralise forms of resistance. Rather than starting from an ambiguous concept that submerges these class conflicts and contradictions, we argue that re-centering class struggles that frame the new political moment offers a more useful framework for understanding agrarian transformation in the contemporary period.

KEYWORDS: Authoritarianism, populism, nationalism, resistance, agrarian change


The Canadian Journal of Development Studies is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary, bilingual (English and French) forum for critical research and reflection on the complex problems of international development theory, policy and practice. Founded in 1980, the CJDS remains the only Canadian scholarly journal devoted exclusively to the study of international development. It is published quarterly by the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development.

For the full-length article, see: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02255189.2020.1814707 

Dr. Oliveira published in Applied Geography

Global-local interactions in agrochemical industry: Relating trade regulations in Brazil to environmental and spatial restructuring in China

Dr. Oliveira’s article “Global-local interactions in agrochemical industry: Relating trade regulations in Brazil to environmental and spatial restructuring in China“, co-authored with He Canfei and Ma Jiahui, has just been published in Applied Geography.


China and Brazil are the world’s leading exporter and importer of agrochemicals respectively. We combine quantitative and qualitative methods to analyze global-local interactions in the spatial restructuring of China’s agrochemical industry in relation to a 2006 agrochemical import-acceleration policy in Brazil. We synthesize global political ecology and evolutionary economic geography (EEG) research on environmental regulations, technological upgrading, and the spatial transformations of China’s pollution-intensive industries, discussing arguments that the Pollution Haven Hypothesis (PHH) and Porter Hypothesis (PH) co-exist due to firm heterogeneity. While existing studies conceptualize heterogeneity in terms of firm size, regional hub (cluster) effect, and local government intervention, this study adds global-local interactions as dimension of firm heterogeneity – distinguishing firms with weak and strong international linkages. We show the import-acceleration policy in Brazil contributed to the de-concentration of agrochemical production towards western China (confirming the PHH). Yet increasingly strict environmental regulations in China curtailed de-concentration after 2010, when well-established firms and new entrants with strong international linkages consolidated exports to Brazil, while new firms with weaker international linkages exited this market (confirming the PH). This co-existence of PHH and PH due to firm-level heterogeneity of global-local interactions illustrates a theoretical synthesis we call an evolutionary political economic geography (EPEG).

Keywords: Evolutionary economic geography; Global political ecology; Global-local interactions; Pollution haven hypothesis; Porter hypothesis; Chemical industry

Applied Geography is a journal devoted to the publication of research which utilizes geographic approaches (human, physical, nature-society and GIScience) to resolve human problems that have a spatial dimension. These problems may be related to the assessment, management and allocation of the world’s physical and/or human resources. The underlying rationale of the journal is that only through a clear understanding of the relevant societal, physical, and coupled natural-humans systems can we resolve such problems. The journal was founded in 1980, and consistently ranks among the top journals of geography, planning, development studies, and environmental science.

For the full length article, see: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2020.102244


Dr. Oliveira publishes a special issue of Political Geography

China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Views from the Ground

Dr. Oliveira’s article “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Views from the Ground” has just been published as the guest editor’s introduction to a special issue Political Geography.

The article is co-authored with Galen Murton, Alessandro Rippa, Tyler Harlan, and Yang Yang, who also co-edited the special issue.


ABSTRACT: The Chinese government promotes the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a global strategy for regional integration and infrastructure investment. With a projected US$1 trillion commitment from Chinese financial institutions, and at least 138 countries participating, the BRI is attracting intense debate. Yet most analysis to date focuses on broad drivers, risks, and opportunities, largely considered to be emanating from a coherent policy imposed by Beijing. In this special issue, we instead examine the BRI as a relational, contested process – a bundle of intertwined discourses, policies, and projects that sometimes align but are sometimes contradictory. We move beyond policy-level, macro-economic, and classic geopolitical analysis to study China’s global investments “from the ground”. Our case studies reveal the BRI to be dynamic and unstable, rhetorically appropriated for different purposes that sometimes but do not always coalesce as a coherent geopolitical and geoeconomic strategy. The papers in this special issue provide one of the first collections of deep empirical work on the BRI and a useful approach for grounding China’s role in globalization in the critical contexts of complex local realities.

KEYWORDS: China, Belt and Road Initiative, political geography, globalization, theory and methods, global ethnography.


Political Geography is the flagship journal of political geography and advances knowledge in all aspects of the geographical and spatial dimensions of politics and the political. It was established in 1982, consistently ranks among the most high impact and well regarded journals across the disciplines of geography, history, political science, sociology, and interdisciplinary social sciences.

For the full-length article, see: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.polgeo.2020.102225

Dr. Oliveira published in the Edward Elgar Handbook of Critical Agrarian Studies

BRICS and Global Agrarian Transformations

Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira and Ben McKay

Dr. Oliveira’s co-authored chapter “BRICS and Global Agrarian Transformations” has just been accepted for publication in the The Handbook of Critical Agrarian Studies, edited by Haroon Akram-Lodhi, Kristina Dietz, Bettina Engels, and Ben McKay , edited by Matthew Himley, Elizabeth Havice, and Gabriela Valdivia. The edited volume is forthcoming from Edward Elgar.


Understanding the rise of emerging economies like the BRICS is central to analysis of contemporary global agrarian transformations. Yet it is not simply their associated geopolitical transformations that call attention from, and provide new insights for critical agrarian studies. The point is not to debate whether new agribusiness companies and development models from the BRICS are a success of resistance to the Global North, or a new sub-imperialist project against middle-income and the least developed countries. Instead, these global agrarian transformations must be rooted in the conflicts and contradictions within emerging economies themselves, as subaltern actors struggle for food sovereignty and agroecology in a protracted struggle against neoliberal elites, populist authoritarianism, and conservative nationalist movements. Our goal here is not to fully describe and analyze these struggles and their repercussions for global agrarian change, but rather to emphasize that such conflicts and heterogeneities are the most fruitful springboard for new insights in critical agrarian studies. Debates that focus upon “global convergence”, “multipolarity” and “new development paradigms” but understate grounded socio-ecological struggles and transformations (cf. West 2014; Reeves 2018) are misguided and misplaced in the social sciences in general, and critical agrarian studies in particular. As climate change advances further and the socio-ecological foundations of human life become increasingly more unstable and vulnerable, new theories, methodologies, and debates are required. The dramatic transformation of the global political economy of food and farming due to the rise of the BRICS is fertile ground for the cultivation of such new ways of thinking, and critical agrarian scholars from these regions are stepping up to the task at hand, inviting colleagues who remain snagged in the provincial terms of bygone scholarship rooted in fallen and decaying empires.

More information on the The Edward Elgar Handbook of Critical Agrarian Studies will be available shortly.

Author’s original manuscript of the chapter available here.

Dr. Oliveira published in the Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography

Soy, Domestication, and Colonialism

Dr. Oliveira’s chapter “Soy, Domestication, and Colonialism” has just been accepted for publication in the Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography, edited by Matthew Himley, Elizabeth Havice, and Gabriela Valdivia. The edited volume is forthcoming from Routledge.


Soy is one of the world’s most important crops by area, volume, and value. It is especially distinctive for serving as key nexus between food, livestock feed, fuel, and myriad industrial products. Its rapidly multiplying uses provide a powerful touchstone for analysis of how resources are not only created, but also constantly recreated and redesigned. In turn, these transformations reflect the shifting political ecological foundations that undergird resource creation – above all the territorial expansion of an extractive mode of production intimately associated with colonialism – and illustrate how resource-making processes generate new socio-ecological relations in their own image. This chapter begins with the historical interdependence of agriculture and colonialism, framing the domestication of plants as the archetype of resource-making. It then traces the cultivation of soybeans from its domestication and dispersal throughout present-day China through Han colonial expansion; through its early industrialization at the hands of Japanese colonizers of Korea and “Manchuria,” followed by US industrialists; to its key role in the contemporary colonization of South American hinterlands and its projected neo-colonial expansion across Africa and Asia. Finally, I critique the neo-natures created by transnational soy agribusiness through biotechnology, and the neo-colonial expansion of “Western” diets worldwide.

Keywords: soybeans, resource-making, world-making, environmental history, global political ecology

More information on the Routledge Handbook of Critical Resource Geography will be made available shortly.

Author’s original manuscript of the chapter available here.

Dr. Oliveira published in Idéias

The resistance to Chinese land grabs in Brazil since 2008: Lessons and agroecological alternatives

Dr. Oliveira’s article “The resistance to Chinese land grabs in Brazil since 2008: Lessons and agroecological alternatives” has just been published in a special issue on Brazil-China Relations in the journal Idéias.

ABSTRACT: The goal of this article is to describe and theorize the recent history of resistance to Chinese acquisitions of farmland in Brazil in order to enable a clear and useful discussion of the victories and challenges of the resistance to foreignization of land and the advancement of transnational and domestic agribusiness; and also to allow for the development of agroecological alternatives for Brazil-China relations. Employing theories of narratives in the articulation of social movements and methods of global ethnography, based upon 27 months of fieldwork in Brazil and China, I argue an alliance of convenience between certain agribusiness sectors and social movements were able to effectively dismantle the largest attempts at acquiring farmland by Chinese agribusinesses in Brazil. On the other hand, since these efforts maintained focus on direct acquisitions of farmland, this resistance was unable to affect the indirect incorporation of Brazilian land by Chinese agribusinesses that acquired operational companies in Brazil. Moreover, the role of Chinese capital in what has been called “foreignization of land” in Brazil has been relatively small. Therefore, I conclude that the strong focus on Chinese capital and on direct acquisitions of rural property did not target the main dynamics of foreignization of land, even if they effectively dismantled the main Chinese attempts to grab land in Brazil. Yet there are great opportunities for the development of agroecological initiatives between Brazil and China that could orient investments and partnerships in South-South solidarity, strengthening national and food sovereignty in both countries against the advancement of transnational agribusiness.

KEYWORDS: Brazil, China, foreignization of land, social movements, networks, narratives

Idéias is an interdisciplinary journal published by the Institute of Philosophy and Humanities of the University of Campinas (UNICAMP). It distinguishes itself among academic journals in Brazil for publishing cutting-edge research and interdisciplinary special issues on hotly debated current events, resulting in high-impact factors in the disciplines of humanities, urban and regional planning, law, philosophy, history, sociology, anthropology, and political science, among others.

For the full-length article (in Portuguese), see:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.20396/ideias.v9i2.8655285

Dr. Oliveira published in Territory, Politics, Governance

Boosters, brokers, bureaucrats and businessmen: assembling Chinese capital with Brazilian agribusiness

Dr. Oliveira’s article Boosters, brokers, bureaucrats and businessmen: assembling Chinese capital with Brazilian agribusiness” has just been published a special issue on “Grounding China’s Global Integration” in the journal Territory, Politics, Governance.

ABSTRACT: My purpose in this paper is to deepen the literature on Chinese foreign investments (particularly in Brazilian agribusiness), and the formation of a transnational capitalist class, by utilizing practices of global ethnography and the conceptual apparatus of ‘assemblages’ emerging in human geography. I trace the genealogy of the Chinese-owned Brazilian company BBCA Brazil and its agroindustrial project in Mato Grosso do Sul state, since it is illustrative of the conditions of possibility for Chinese direct investments in agribusiness in Brazil and Brazil–China agroindustrial partnerships more generally. I argue the central characters of this story aptly illustrate the transnational class of boosters, brokers, bureaucrats and businessmen who rise by assembling Chinese capital with Brazilian (agri)business expertise, labour and land. It is the particular work of assemblage and set of skills of these characters, especially those operating at the ‘middle levels’ of state and corporate governance, that both enables the successful implementation of transnational investments, and also explains why such projects propel them while marginalizing others, increasing social inequality, and aggravating environmental degradation.

KEYWORDS: ChinaBrazilforeign direct investmentsglobalizationtransnational corporationstransnational capitalist classglobal ethnographyassemblage


Territory, Politics, Governance is an interdisciplinary journal from the Regional Studies Association. It is “committed to the development of theory and research in territorial politics and the governance of space,” emphasizing publications on globalization, territorial identities and politics, and multi-level governance, among other topics.

Dr. Oliveira published in the Journal of Latin American Geography

Dr. Oliveira’s article “The Battle of the Beans: How Direct Brazil-China Soybean Trade Was Stillborn in 2004” has just been published in a special issue on “New Geographies of China and Latin America Relations” in the Journal of Latin American Geography.

ABSTRACT: In 2004, Brazilian soybean cooperatives in Rio Grande do Sul state and the Chinese state-owned agroindustrial commodity trading company Chinatex orchestrated the first direct soybean shipments between both countries. By that moment, China had flipped from a net soybean exporter in the previous decade to the world’s leading importer of this commodity, and Brazilian exports were mushrooming to attend this demand. However, powerful trading corporations from the US and western Europe dominated this international trade. Thus, the attempt to establish direct shipments between Brazilian producers to China was integral to efforts by agribusinesses in these emerging economies to wrest control over the profits and flows of this burgeoning and strategic sector. However, this first partnership for direct soybean trade became embroiled in a convoluted crisis involving the legalization of transgenic soybeans in Brazil, widespread contamination of shipments with pesticide-covered seeds, record volatility in soybean prices, and the ensuing collapse and foreign take-over of the Chinese soybean trade and processing industry—dubbed the “Battle of the Beans” in Chinese media. Drawing on extended interviews with the key protagonists of this decisive moment in the restructuring of international agribusiness markets, I describe how direct Brazil-China soybean trade was spectacularly stillborn, consolidating the oligopoly of agribusiness trading companies from the Global North over international soybean markets for another decade. I argue this particular moment was one of the most important events in the construction of the new geography of Brazil-China relations, and we can only understand how its specific convergences and divergences emerged through grounded, transnational, and ethno-graphically-nuanced analysis. Thus, my investigation provides unprecedented insight into the political and economic conjuncture in which South-South cooperation is pursued between China and its largest commercial partner in Latin America, even while it reproduces agroindustrial production and trade relations that benefit transnational elites at the expense of the majority of peasants, workers, and the environment in both China and Latin America.
KEYWORDS: Brazil, China, global ethnography, soy, international trade

The Journal of Latin American Geography is published by the Conference of Latin American Geography (est. 1970) and distributed by the University of Texas Press. According to Google Scholar, it is the sixth highest ranked journal of Latin American studies.

For the full length article, see: http://muse.jhu.edu/article/701025