For John, BLUF: The Chinese are making friends in a lot of different places.
Here are some notes from someone I know with some insights into this issue:
An interesting examination of how knowledge can proliferate.It isn't always about us, but it could impact us. China is beginning to try and push around those nations on its periphery. Some may call on us for help. We need to be thinking about that, which is why our pivot to Asia is important and of value. Now, if we can provide the resources without stripping other areas dry, we will be OK. Nothing says you area serious like an aircraft carrier moving into the area, unless it is an airfield or an army unit already there.
The Chinese, rather than learning how to conduct carrier operations on their own, or approaching the Russians (who, from Indian experience, would seem at times unreliable), appear to have found another source of knowledge--the Brazilians.
This should not actually be surprising--Chinese cooperation with the Brazilians in, for example, their space programs has benefited both countries.
It does answer the question of how the Chinese were able to do a basic carrier take-off and landing (more advanced than a touch-and-go), and raises interesting questions of what other kinds of cooperation might be going on around the world, especially among smaller, second-tier powers which we simply don't think about. Just a thought...
Regards — Cliff