China and Brazil launched an observational satellite into orbit on Friday to observe the Amazon rainforest, the two countries announced.
The CBERS-4As satellite was launched on Friday on a Long March-4B rocket in the northern Chinese province of Shanxi, with the aim of supporting the Brazilian government’s monitoring of the Amazon rainforest as well as broader changes in the country’s environment.
The mission forms part of the China-Brazil Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS) program that began in 1988 and is the sixth of its kind. The bilateral program is considered a template for closer cooperation between BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China) between the world’s largest emerging economies.
As well as the Brazilian satellite, China also sent seven other satellites into space by the same rocket, including one donated to Ethiopia.
Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reports that Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro exchanged messages of congratulations over the launch, with Xi declaring it “a successful precedent for aerospace cooperation between developing countries and a good example for South-South cooperation in high-tech fields.”
“The successful launch of CBERS 04A came as China and Brazil are celebrating the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations,” he continued.
Xi also expressed his hope that the two countries will “earnestly implement their 10-year aerospace cooperation plan, and actively advance follow-up satellite cooperation, so as to enrich the China-Brazil comprehensive strategic partnership for the benefit of both countries and their peoples.”
Bolsonaro noted that both sides had “witnessed fruitful aerospace cooperation over the past years and that the successful launch and operation of CBERS 04A marked the latest major achievement and will play an important role in the two countries’ efforts to monitor and utilize natural resources.”
The program will likely be welcomed by environmental activists, who have accused Bolsonaro of failing to protect the Amazon rainforest and expressing dismay over his skepticism of man-made climate change.
Such close cooperation is a far cry from the rhetoric that Bolsonaro conveyed during last year’s presidential campaign, where he warned that China represented a threat to Brazil’s sovereignty because of Beijing’s large-scale investment in the country under previous socialist administrations.
Bolsonaro has since appeared to have significantly softened his tone, warning during a recent visit to Beijing that “Brazil needs China” as he signed eight separate trade agreements. Last month, Bolsonaro met Xi again at the BRICS summit in Brasilia, where the two men held further discussions about expanding “free trade” between the two countries.