1. Why has Brazil experienced such rapid economic growth?
The graph below (despite its confusing title) shows the real GDP growth of Brazil compared to the US and UK.
To see how Brazil compares to other countries, click the words 'Explore data' on the bottom right of the graph.
Through its combination of a young population, plenty of natural resources and a fairly robust political system, Brazil has managed to create and sustain a boost in its economic state. The rise of China (which will be explored later in the series, but has been already been explained by our author Chris Pearson here) contributed to Brazil's economic development as China had, and still has, a massive demand for commodities due to its sudden surge in manufacturing. (For a simple and effective explanation of what commodities are, click here.) Brazil's massive levels of exports of commodities to China leaves it slightly vulnerable as China's economic condition has a direct impact on Brazil's economy.
During the first decade after the Cold War, America's relations with Brazil drastically declined, which marked the beginning of the end of the US' influence over Latin America. This resulted in Brazil having more independence in its political and economic actions, which allowed it to expand without the somewhat oppressive and exploitative US hindering its progress.
Aside from its commodities exports, Brazil has a fairly well developed high-tech industry. Brazil has clearly made use of the resources it has, but it could be argued that it is overly dependent on exporting commodities. However, notable examples of other areas where Brazil does very well globally are ethanol production and the aviation industry.
Brazil is the second largest producer of ethanol in the world after the United States. In 2010, Brazil produced 486,000 bbl/d of ethanol, up from 450,000bbl/d in 2009. A combination of high world sugar prices, a poor sugar cane harvest, and underinvestment caused a precipitous decline in ethanol production in 2011.
Source: http://www.eia.gov/cabs/brazil/Full.html, Last Updated: Feb. 28, 2012