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Brazil's Lula Arrives in China for State Visit

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and first lady Rosangela "Janja" da Silva are welcomed to Shanghai, China, by Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Xie Feng, April 13, 2023. (Ricardo Stuckert/Handout via Reuters)

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva arrived late Wednesday in China for an official visit aimed at boosting the deep ties between the Asian giant and Latin America's biggest economy.

The veteran leftist, who is to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping on Friday in Beijing, arrived first in Shanghai with his wife, Rosangela "Janja" da Silva.

Before departing Brazil, Lula said he planned to invite President Xi to visit but didn’t specify a date.

"We're going to consolidate our relationship with China,” Lula said Monday evening. “I'm going to invite Xi Jinping to come to Brazil for a bilateral meeting, to get to know the country and to show him projects that will be of interest for Chinese investment.”

Lula's schedule in Shanghai on Thursday includes attending the inauguration of his ally, former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, as head of the BRICS development bank. It is a group formed by top emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Returning to office in January after having led Brazil from 2003 to 2010, Lula is seeking to smooth relations with China, after ties deteriorated under his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.

In a delicate balancing act, he is also seeking closer ties with the United States, Brazil's second-biggest trading partner and a key rival of China.

His visit with Xi comes after a high-profile White House meeting with President Joe Biden in February.

Lula is keen to reposition Brazil as a key player and deal broker on the international stage, after four years of relative isolation under Bolsonaro.

He and Xi are expected to discuss the Ukraine conflict, in which both hope to act as mediators, despite Western concerns that they are overly cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lula has about 40 high-level figures with him on the trip, including Cabinet ministers, governors and members of Congress. He will wrap up his trip with a one-day official visit to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.

Lula, 77, was initially scheduled to travel in late March to China, Brazil's biggest trading partner, but had to postpone the trip after coming down with pneumonia.