The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, will travel to South Africa on Monday in an effort to increase Beijing’s influence among rising and developing countries while relations with the United States remain extremely tense and domestic economic problems continue to grow.
A stark contrast to his globe-trotting days of diplomacy prior to the coronavirus outbreak is the three-day state visit, which also includes a summit with the leaders of the BRICS rising economies.
The last time the Chinese leader traveled outside of the nation was in March to meet with his “dear friend” Vladimir Putin in Moscow. There, the two authoritarian rulers renewed their strategic alliance against the US and outlined their plans for a post-Western world order.
For Xi, the first in-person summit of the BRICS grouping since the pandemic presents another opportunity to advance that vision.
The bloc’s members – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – account for more than 40% of the global population. They also share the desire for a more multipolar world and the demand for a greater say in global affairs.
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“Xi Jinping is not trying to out-compete America in the existing liberal international order dominated by the US. His long-term goal is to change the world order into a Sino-centric one,” said Mr. Steve Tsang, director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London.
To support that ambition, Tsang said, “It makes sense for China to engage with the Global South; (which is) much more numerous than Western democracies and mostly authoritarian in governance structure.”
Previewing Xi’s visit on Friday, China’s ambassador to South Africa Chen Xiaodong hailed BRICS as “an important platform for cooperation among emerging and developing nations” and “the backbone of international fairness and justice”.
Xi’s trip to South Africa comes just days after US President Joe Biden met with the leaders of Japan and South Korea in a show of solidarity and force against rising threats from China.