Speech given at the Brazilian Embassy, London, February 15, 2017.
It is with great pleasure that I see so many of our friends tonight at the Brazilian Embassy in London. Some date back from 30 years ago when Noronha Advogados established its commercial presence in the United Kingdom. During these three decades, the world underwent major changes. Brazil has also been transformed politically and economically in a way that will ensure prosperity and social justice in the medium and long term.
In the meantime, China became Brazil’s main strategic and trade partner in addition to becoming its biggest foreign investor. For the past 20 years, Noronha Advogados have had three offices in China, which gave me a favoured position to learn more about the country, its history and its people. Teaching in China gave me a close contact with students and presiding the Confucius Institute in Brazil allowed me to learn more about Chinese culture.
In this period, I wrote three books on Chinese economics and law and one dictionary of Mandarin Chinese, which were the reason behind the invitation of the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo for me to give a master class on the Chinese Cultural Revolution for postgraduate students of history, sociology, law and economics, in October last year.
It was then suggested that I should publish my basic text, which I did at the Union of Brazilian Writers, an organisation I have presided over the past two years, originally in the Portuguese language. The English edition of the book is being launched today and the Mandarin one will be released in China in approximately two weeks.
The study of the Cultural Revolution is necessary to understand China today. After the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, which restored dignity to the Chinese people, many economic errors were made, caused by over 100 years of foreign occupation, wars and lack of international support in the country’s reconstruction.
The political struggle that ensued was responsible for the radicalization of positions to the left of the political spectrum, which caused social and economic chaos during about 10 years, from 1966 to 1977. The hard lessons absorbed during those troubled times permitted China’s springtime and allowed for the conditions that have made its economy become the second largest in the world.
The subject matter deserves a more thorough study, which of course is outside the scope of a mere master class, which is why I have named my book an introduction.
The English edition of my book is dedicated to the memories of my very dear English friends, Carolyn and John Toulmin and Duncan Innes. John and Carolyn had a close relationship with Brazil, starting in 1992 when John was president elect of the Council of the European Bars (CCBE). Then, he addressed a seminar organised by the Brazilian Bar, São Paulo section, on the internationalisation of the legal professions.
Over the years, John also lectured in São Paulo on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) at a seminar sponsored by the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Relations; for the Association of Judges of São Paulo; and for the Court of Appeals of São Paulo on English civil procedures. He also lectured at the Brazilian Supreme Court in Brasília on English constitutional law.
John and Carolyn also twice visited my country home in São José do Rio Preto, where he lectured at the Law School on the structure of the English Judiciary. Carolyn and John were truly formidable ambassadors of England and its law system. They also became unofficial ambassadors of Brazil in the United Kingdom. Carolyn was always ready to give valuable advice on the English education of my daughters. I shall never forget when I saw flying saucers after a wine tasting session at their vineyard in Aussey-la-Duresse, France.
Duncan Innes, already a senior lawyer of Scottish background, met my law partner Vera de Moraes Dantas in Hong Kong at a International Bar Association (IBA) meeting, when she was representing Noronha Advogados as then head of our Lisbon, Portugal, offices. As they became engaged, Vera asked to be transferred to our London offices. Duncan then expressed to me his determination to learn Portuguese, as a duty towards Vera, her family and country. He pursued this objective with determination and became fluent in the language, speaking It with a Brazilian accent. He pretended not to understand the Portuguese way of speaking.
Duncan had an extremely well developed sentiment of duty that extended to his family, country, law firm and friends. He included Brazil and its people among his affections, seeking to remain well informed, to do pro bono work in relation to Brazilian charities and to support cultural events related to his wife’s country.
I witnessed on many a occasion when Duncan went beyond the call of duty to help many people who needed assistance, emotional, moral or otherwise. I remember with gratitude the times when he gave valuable advice to Noronha Advogados in London, as if he had nothing else to do. He taught at our continuing legal education programme in São Paulo and his lessons were followed by the inevitable bottle of scotch, which consolidated learning. True to his beliefs, Duncan always had an exemplary behaviour towards others that made his wife, children, law partners and friends very proud.
The entire proceeds of the sales of the books tonight will be directed to two meritorious charitable institutions in São José do Rio Preto, São Paulo, Brazil. One, FULBEAS, assists socially vulnerable girls from 13 years of age with a quality full time educational programme. The other, the Institute of the Blind Worker, assists visually challenged people of all ages coming from 37 different cities.
I wish to thank you all very much for being here with us tonight and for your support to these two important charities.