China and Russia used the second day of the BRICS Summit of emerging economies to criticize the West, while also throwing their support behind the proposed expansion of what’s seen by some as an alternative power bloc.
The leaders of Brazil, India, and China are all in South Africa — which is hosting the event — while Russian President Vladimir Putin is participating virtually to avoid arrest under an International Criminal Court warrant over war crimes in Ukraine.
Via video link, Putin — who ordered Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year — said the West’s actions had led to that conflict by trying to “promote their hegemony,” “exceptionalism,” and policies of “neo-colonialism.”
“Our actions in Ukraine are guided by only one thing, to put an end to the war that was unleashed by the West,” said Putin, speaking through a translator.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Brazil and South Africa stressed the need for a peaceful solution to the Ukraine war — though there were no words of criticism for Moscow.
For his part, Chinese leader Xi Jinping noted the world was undergoing major shifts and had entered a new period of “turbulence and transformation.” He blamed countries that form “exclusive blocs” for the problems.
“The cold war mentality is still haunting our world and the geopolitical situation is getting tense,” he said through a translator.
Xi had baffled China-watchers the day before by failing to turn up when the leaders each made a first-day address, instead sending his commerce minister to fill in for him.
Paul Nantulya, a researcher at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, said one could only speculate.
“What I think is happening is there are some headwinds back home in China …which are upsetting the domestic dynamic, and I think something must have erupted that required the president’s attention,” he said.
In other developments, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi threw his support behind the group expanding, after reports India was only lukewarm about the idea.
High on the agenda of this summit is possible expansion of the BRICS group — with Argentina, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia among the countries that have applied to join.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also expressed support for expansion. However, he said BRICS must not aim to rival the U.S., and Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa, also stressed BRICS was not in opposition to anyone.
“While firmly committed to advance the interests of the Global South, BRICS stands ready to collaborate with all countries that aspire to create a more inclusive international order,” he said.
Another theme of the summit is de-dollarization and a move towards greater use of the BRICS currencies. Xi said he would like to see reform of the international financial system.
The summit concludes Thursday, with a final statement from the group expected.