Dr. Oliveira presents his research at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)

Video of lecture at UFRRJ, July 31, 2020

Video of lecture at UFRRJ, July 31, 2020

Dr. Oliveira discusses China-Latin America relations at the Foreign Policy Association: Great Decisions Program in Newport Beach

The Foreign Policy Association has been running the Great Decisions Program since 1954, as the country’s largest discussion of world affairs.

Dr. Gustavo Oliveira was invited to present his research and lead discussion on “The co-production of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Latin America” at the Newport Beach meeting of the Foreign Policy Association: Great Decisions Program.

The event was held at the community center of the St. Mark Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, CA. March 2, 2020.

Dr. Oliveira presents at the Global Studies Colloquium, UC Santa Barbara

“A Global Ethnography of Chinese Investments in Brazilian Agribusiness”

Professor Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira, Department of Global and International Studies, UC Irvine

Thursday, February 20 at 12:30pm to 2:00pm

The Department of Global Studies’ Colloquium Series is a lecture and lunch series, which has been made possible by the generosity of the Orfalea Endowment for the Master’s Program in Global Studies.  The Colloquium Series strives to open and explore a wide range of interdisciplinary debates and their interaction and engagement with the global, hosting new guest speakers each quarter from UCSB and beyond.  The upcoming event will be hosted in the SSMS 2001 conference room in the Global Studies Department on Thursday, February 20th at 12:30pm. Please see below for the featured talk:

“A Global Ethnography of Chinese Investments in Brazilian Agribusiness”

In the aftermath of the global food price and financial crisis of 2008, Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness mushroomed and two narratives emerged: either these are new South-South flows that sustain economic growth and development despite the crisis in the global North; or they are essentially land grabs that deepen Brazil’s neocolonial dependency on its new primary trade partner. Both narratives, however, regard Chinese agro industrial capital as homogenous and oversimplify it as a “global force” that has “local impacts” in Brazil and beyond. Missing from the literature is attention to the specific actors who co-produce these business deals, a transnational class of agribusiness professionals who advance their own affluence and influence by assembling Chinese capital with Brazilian land, labor, and expertise. In order to properly examine these actors and their co-production of Brazil-China agro-industrial partnerships, I advance theories and methods of global studies that are especially useful for the multiscalar and multi-sited fieldwork this research requires, viz. global ethnography and theories of assemblage and transnational class formation. I triangulate data from government, media, and company reports, field site observations, and semi-structured interviews with the boosters, brokers, bureaucrats, and businessmen who assemble Chinese capital with Brazilian agribusiness, and situate this material in relation to similar data about the political ecological struggles unfolding at the sites of investment across Brazil. Thus, my research reveals (1) the forms of power and interest bring these investments into being, and (2) their effect upon the Brazilian territory, model of development, and environment. Ultimately, I argue we can distinguish between “Paper Tigers”, companies that were feared as powerful land grabbers and relied on Brazilian political contacts but largely failed to effectively establish themselves in Brazil, and “Dragon Heads”, companies that undertook global-level mergers and acquisitions to bypass the challenges of management and socio-ecological resistance. Shifting theoretical and methodological focus to the career interests and assemblage methods undertaken by transnational agribusiness professionals who plan, produce, and profit from these endeavors, my scholarship reveals Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness are not determined by institutional characteristics and international relations, but rather by the class and ecological contradictions that undergird transnational agribusiness in these new hubs of global capital.

Dr. Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira is assistant professor in the Department of Global and International Studies at UC Irvine. He obtained his PhD in geography from UC Berkeley, a postdoctoral fellowship in environmental studies at Swarthmore College, and was visiting assistant professor of economic geography at Peking University. His current book project examines Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness and infrastructure. His work has been published in Development and Change, Globalizations, the Journal of Latin American Geography, Journal of Peasant Studies, and Territory, Politics, Governance, among others. He co-edited (with Susanna Hecht) a special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies that has been republished as a book Soy, Globalization, and Environmental Politics in South America (Routledge, 2018), and is co-editing special issues on “China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Views from the Ground” for the journal Political Geography and another on “New Insights on Land Grabs in the BRICS and Global South” for the journal Globalizations.
For more information about the Colloquium Series, please contact Professor Jan Nederveen Pieterse, Global Studies Colloquium Director:

 UCSB Social Sciences and Media Studies Building, SSMS Conference Room 2001 (2nd Floor)


Dr. Oliveira presents at the symposium on Politics in Contemporary Brazil, UC Irvine

“The diseases of Brazil-China agroindustrialization.”

Dr. Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira, Department of Global and International Studies, UC Irvine

Invited presentation to the symposium Politics in Contemporary Brazil, organized by the Jack W. Peltason Center for the Study of Democracy and Latin American Studies Center, University of California Irvine.

Social and Behavioral Science Gateway 1511, 9:00 am – 4:15 pm, February 3, 2020.

This one-day workshop brings together Brazilian scholars focused on some of the pressing issues in the country through the lenses of political science. It offers diverse accounts about democracy, public policy, reforms and contemporary issues in a country that has experienced major political changes over the past decade. Since 2013, Brazil has witnessed massive street protests, profound political polarization, a presidential impeachment, corruption scandals, deep economic crisis and the rise of far-right populism. The workshop looks at this changing context in order to shed light on a myriad of topics of Brazilian Politics.

Dr. Oliveira’s presentation sketches a new direction for research in global political ecology and public health, examining the myriad ways in which the process of agro-industrialization that has deepened through Brazil-China economic integration is associated with increasing prevalence of plant, animal, and human diseases.


For further information contact Ricardo Fabrino Mendonça: ricardofabrino@hotmail.com

Dr. Oliveira presents at the UC Berkeley Latin American Leadership Society Bi-annual Forum

Is Brazil economic prey to Chinese agribusiness investors?

Dr. Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira, Department of Global and International Studies, UC Irvine

Invited presentation to the UC Berkeley Latin American Leadership Society Bi-annual Forum: Brazil, Economic Prey, Development

230 Cheit Hall, Haas School of Business, UC Berkeley

December 5, 2019 5:00 – 7:30pm

The UC Berkeley Latin American Leadership Society (LLS) is made up of people from very diverse backgrounds with profound interest in Latin America, be it the current political and economical scene, the region’s rich culture and traditions, or the growing influence of Latin American communities in the United States. The LLS bi-annual forum is one of its main mediums for educating UC Berkeley about the current topics in Latin America. Every semester, the Latin American Leadership Society (LLS) exercises the great honor to host distinguished guests from around Latin America. Our past speakers include Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, Mexican political analyst and academic, Denise Dresser, Brazil’s Supreme Court Justice, Luís Roberto Barroso, Emmy nominated journalist and producer, Andrés Cediel—just to name a few. The aim is to cover different areas of interest and disciplines that ultimately unites keen UC Berkeley students to promote collaboration between nations and to contribute to the development of Latin America. This semester the forum will focus on development and economic prey in Brazil.

Guest speakers:

Gustavo Oliveira has extensive research experience in fields like Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness and infrastructure, global political ecology, race, and environment to name a few. Oliveira is also a professor at the University of California, Irvine and is a UC Berkeley alumnus!

Flavio Feferman has extensive research experience in fields like entrepreneurship and innovation in developing regions, the role of business and technology in economic development, innovation clusters and regional economic development, agricultural development, entrepreneurial education, and international consulting. Feferman is also a professor for UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Bruno Meyerhof Salama is Professor of Law at the FGV School of Law at São Paulo, Brazil, where he is also a director of the Center for Law, Economics, and Governance!

Contact: Karina Cortes Garcia, karcortesg@berkeley.edu

Dr. Oliveira presents new research at the UCI Long US-China Institute

Assembling China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Latin America

Dr. Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira

Assistant Professor, Department of Global and International Studies, UCI

October 21, 2019

3:00p.m. – 4:30p.m.

Humanities Gateway, Room 1010

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, I argue 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, I draw upon methods of global ethnography and theories of assemblage. I springboard from my research on Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness and related infrastructure and examine how the BRI incorporated Latin America through policy and discourse analysis. Then I demonstrate the multi-scalar and multi-sited production of Chinese-funded port and railroad infrastructures in Brazil. Ultimately, I argue these theories and methods of global studies enable us to ask more useful and critical questions about the BRI and China’s relations with Latin America.

Faculty work-in-progress lecture for the UCI Long US-China Institute

Contact: Dr. Emily Baum, emily.baum@uci.edu

Dr. Oliveira presents his research at the China Agricultural University

How Soybeans (Dis)Connect the US, China and Brazil

Dr. Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira

Visiting Assistant Professor, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University

Assistant Professor, Department of Global and International Studies, UC Irvine

May 16, 2019

12:30p.m. – 13:30p.m.

China Agricultural University, East Campus, Democracy Building 240

Soybeans were first domesticated in China thousands of years ago, and they became a truly global commodity through US geopolitical hegemony during the 20th century. But now Brazil surpassed the US to become the largest exporter of this agricultural commodity, which has in China its largest market. So when the US initiated a trade war in 2018, and China responded by raising counter-tariffs on soybeans imported from the US, Brazilian soy exports to China gained even greater geopolitical importance. These connections between China, Brazil, and the US through soy trade are usually treated as a “natural” result of the limited farmland in China in relation to its large population, the abundance of natural resources in Brazil, and the technological advancement of US agribusiness. In this paper, I adopt a political ecology framework to challenge this mainstream view. I reveal the political drivers and ecological contradictions of the global agroindustrial restructuring that connects and disconnects China, Brazil, and the United States through soybeans – and argue that instead of seeing these problems as simple geopolitical struggle between countries, and calling for smoother international soy trade among them, we should shift debate to the underlying class politics and ecological contradictions of transnational soybean agribusiness, which foreclose agroecological alternatives that can strengthen food sovereignty in Brazil, the US, and China alike.

Contact: Fu Chuchu, WeChat ID: wxid_0isvkzb64em522


Dr. Oliveira presents his research at the UCI International Studies Public Forum

The Political Ecology and Geopolitics of Chinese Investments in Brazilian Agribusiness

Dr. Gustavo de L. T. Oliveira

Assistant Professor, Department of Global and International Studies, UCI

February 7, 2019

5:00p.m. – 6:20p.m.

Social Science Plaza A, Room 1100

The global geography and political economy of food and farming are shifting dramatically. US and European companies dominated international markets during the 20th century, but now a new world order is emerging with growing exports from Brazil and mushrooming imports from China. These new trade flows are intimately associated with transformations in local environments and global politics, and they have been driving high-profile Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness during the past decade. During this period, a powerful discourse emerged that China is the leading “land grabber” in Brazil, which in turn empowered a far-right movement against Chinese investments and the Brazilian leftist governments that cultivated closer Brazil-China political relations. In this lecture, Oliveira discusses how we should understand these political, economic, and ecological processes that connect China and Brazil, and transform global relations. Most narratives highlight the abundance of natural resources in Brazil, and the scarcity of land in China, as a natural basis for the “comparative advantage” that drives such trade and investments. Oliveira argues this “naturalizes” a new and radically fabricated agro-ecological arrangement of people, plants, animals and industries in Brazil, China and elsewhere; and in fact, they do not identify the fundamental drivers of this global agro-industrial restructuring. As he explains, China’s massive imports from Brazil stem from its rapid urbanization and a shortage of rural labor, while Brazilian exports do not result from an abundance of land and natural resources, but rather from the forced dispossession of peasants from their land and the wholesale sacrifice of vulnerable ecosystems. Moreover, Chinese investments in farmland largely failed to materialize, and linger far behind land grabs by investors from the US, EU, Japan, and even Latin America itself. Instead, successful Chinese investments in Brazilian agribusiness have focused on trading infrastructure, which places them as a component of China’s attempt to reorganize global trade and geopolitics through its New Silk Road projects.

Contact: Jessica Cañas-Castañeda, jcanas@uci.edu

Sponsor: Department of Global and International Studies