China's demand for meat—for food security—drives deforestation in Brazil. As the world’s largest consumer of soy, China's hunger has fueled a fight over land use in the Amazon, where much of soy is grown, accelerating the loss of biodiversity and contributing to the global climate emergency. For a country that has pledged to honor the Paris agreement, Beijing’s food security policy runs counter to its environmental efforts. Journalists Melissa Chan and Heriberto Araújo have reported extensively on China's impact beyond its borders. This time, they journey to the Amazon for a closer look. A weakly regulated region, soy farmers and cattle ranchers have encroached on indigenous and protected areas here for years. Under Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, this process has accelerated the climate emergency. All eyes are now on a game-changing project: the Chinese-backed Ferrogrão railroad, part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative that would transform Brazil’s soy industry by connecting its interior to the Amazonian waterways. Such a link, which would cut through some of the most pristine forests on earth, would pull Brazil ahead of its main competitor in the global soy market—the United States—but at what cost? Chan and Araújo meet indigenous leaders, fishing communities, environmental activists, and soy producers to learn more.
The Brazilians who migrated to the Amazon to exploit its richness of resources, spurred on by Bolsonaro, don't realize they're being accused of environmental crimes.
From Mato Grosso to Pará, how rural Brazil provides one of the food commodities China needs most.
A story with immense explanatory power touching on geopolitics, the rise of China and the power of Chinese consumers—and of course, climate change.
Like so many politicians, campaign rhetoric switches once leaders take office and face the realities of doing business with China. But Bolsonaro has bet big on China — and that's risky business.