Xi Urges South Africa to Work With China to Boost BRICS’ Clout

Chinese President Xi Jinping called on South Africa to join him in boosting the countries’ combined influence on international affairs in the Global South.

(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping called on South Africa to join him in boosting the countries’ combined influence on international affairs in the Global South.

“We support substantive progress in the G20 and support South Africa employing a greater role,” he told reporters at a joint press conference with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria, a prelude to this week’s BRICS summit starting on Tuesday. “We are global partners that should uphold justice.”

China and South Africa have thrown their weight behind the expansion of the BRICS bloc ahead of its annual meeting in Johannesburg, an attempt to extend the group’s clout on the world stage and challenge the US-led status quo. 

Beijing has been pushing for adding to the five-nation group that also includes Brazil, Russia and India. Ramaphosa publicly gave his backing to the plan in a televised address to the nation on Sunday. More than 20 nations have formally applied to join, he said. These are reported to include Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Egypt.

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The Chinese leader has been courting countries from the Global South as tensions with the US and its Western allies mount. In an op-ed published in several South African media outlets on Monday, Xi said China and South Africa should “fear no hegemony” and “work together to appeal for greater voice and influence” of the developing nations. 

“We will urge the international community to refocus on development issues, promote a greater role by the BRICS cooperation mechanism in global governance, and make the voice of BRICS stronger,” Xi wrote, noting that more countries are “knocking on the door of BRICS.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who will participate remotely in the summit as he faces a war-crimes arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, has also supported the expansion. However, India is wary that expanding BRICS will transform the group into a mouthpiece for China, while Brazil is worried about alienating the West, Bloomberg has reported.

At the joint briefing Tuesday, Xi also said China and South Africa will deepen bilateral cooperation in electricity, new energy and scientific and technological innovation. China will continue to encourage its companies to invest and operate in South Africa, Xi said.

The trip marks only Xi’s second abroad visit this year, as the leader has preferred to stay home facing mounting problems. He spent just two days outside China — in a short visit to Russia — in 2023, the fewest in any first half of a year since he took power more than a decade ago, excluding the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Read More: Xi’s Visit to South Africa for BRICS Marks Rare Trip Abroad

China is South Africa’s largest trading partner, accounting for $56.3 billion between the two nations in 2022, including exports to the Asian country of $32.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. South Africa has in turn looked to China to secure a pipeline for solar components to help ease a debilitating power crisis.  

–With assistance from Li Liu.

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