Xi Jinping Seeks to Rebuild, and Dominate, Frayed BRICS Coalition

DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - MARCH 29: Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks at a reception in his honour on March 29, 2014 in Dusseldorf, Germany. President Xi Jinping is visiting the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia after meeting with German leaders in Berlin the day before. Earlier in the day he …
Sascha Steinbach/Getty Images

Chinese dictator Xi Jinping gave a lengthy teleconferenced address to the BRICS group of emerging economies on Tuesday, making a bid to restore and dominate what Chinese state media described as a tottering coalition riven by unreasonable animosity toward China from two of the other members, India and Brazil.

As usual with top Chinese officials, Xi used the coronavirus pandemic unleashed by China as an argument for greater Chinese influence in the world and called for the kind of “multilateralism” the brutal Chinese tyranny loves to exploit.

“Facing the choice between multilateralism and unilateralism, and between justice and hegemony, we BRICS countries must stand up for equity and justice in the world. We must hold high the banner of multilateralism, and defend the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. We must endeavor to safeguard the UN-centered international system and the international order underpinned by international law,” Xi pontificated, making some very bold statements for the authoritarian ruler of a country that uses actual slave labor.

Xi sought to rebuke efforts at economic disengagement from China, presenting it as an irrational fit of pique the post-pandemic world cannot afford:

To stabilize the economy while controlling the pandemic is the pressing task facing all countries. Under the precondition that safety is ensured, we must actively pursue economic recovery and seek to carry out economic and social activities in an orderly way as we fight the virus on an ongoing basis. We need to strengthen macroeconomic policy coordination, follow through on the initiative on facilitating cross-border flow of people and goods, and keep industrial and supply chains safe and open to better enable the resumption of business activities and economic recovery.

The practice of using the pandemic to pursue “de-globalization” or clamor for “economic decoupling” and “parallel systems” will end up hurting one’s own interests and the common interests of all. Under the current situation, we need to stand firm for building an open world economy. We need to uphold the multilateral trading system with the WTO at its core and reject abuse of the “national security” concept for protectionist purposes. We need to leverage the new business forms and models triggered by the pandemic, strengthen cooperation on scientific and technological innovation, and nurture an open, fair, equitable and nondiscriminatory business environment to bring about common development of higher quality and stronger resilience.

“China will not shut its door of opening-up; it will embrace the world with more open arms. China will be more vigorous in integrating with the global market and will take greater initiative in deepening international cooperation. In so doing, China will create more opportunities and space for global recovery and growth,” Xi promised.

The day before Xi delivered his speech, China’s CGTN ran an editorial asking if BRICS — the economic group that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa — is “falling apart” because India and Brazil are becoming “increasingly antagonistic toward China”:

China has the resources and expertise to build its four partners’ infrastructure networks and invest in their industries. And with their combined huge population of almost three billion, inter-BRICS trade would bring enormous economies of scale, competitiveness and long-term sustainable economic growth.

However, India and Brazil viewing China a “threat” rather than an “opportunity” could risk BRICS falling apart. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership mostly because India fears that China will “hurt its manufacturing,” while Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-China sentiment was based largely on ideology.

Bolsonaro ran on an anti-China platform, accusing China of trying to “own” his country. Though softened after elections because China is Brazil’s biggest or major customer and investor, his anti-China sentiments remain intact.

The editorial castigated Bolsonaro for freezing Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE out of its 5G wireless network and refusing to buy a coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s SinoVac, and Modi for exploiting “anti-China sentiments” to distract from India’s “faltering economy while cozying up to the United States under President Donald Trump.

“Playing the ‘China card’ could backfire on Modi and Bolsonaro. Help from developed countries, including the U.S., might not be forthcoming because they are having problems of their own,” the op-ed warned, adding that “decoupling” from China could “deep freeze” the economies of India and Brazil unless Modi and Bolsonaro end up “putting national interests over theirs” by embracing China and reviving BRICS.

China’s Xinhua news service on Wednesday denounced the “rising sentiments of ‘de-globalization’ and clamor for so-called ‘economic decoupling,’” instead advising China’s BRICS partners and other developing nations to embrace Xi’s vision of Beijing-managed multilateralism with “full-throated support.”

“Unfortunately, there are also attempts to exploit the pandemic to stigmatize and scapegoat others, which have disrupted the ongoing international anti-virus cooperation. Thus, another task for countries is to overcome division with unity, replace bias with reason and stamp out all kinds of political viruses,” Xinhua editorialized disdainfully.

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