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Brazilian President Reaffirms Support of China During Visit with Xi

During his visit to China, newly elected Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to discuss foreign and trade policies. Lula promised Xi a re-upped commitment to deepening trade relations with China following the more pro-Washington approach of his right-wing predecessor Jair Bolsonaro. During his speech in Beijing, Lula went as far as to oppose the dominance of the U.S. dollar in global trade, calling on leaders from different nations to either switch currencies or adopt something similar to the gold standard. The move from the Brazilian President is hardly surprising to U.S. officials given his track record on pro-China trade policies during his first tenure as president from 2003 to 2010. 

WALL STREET JOURNAL: China’s Xi Jinping, Brazil’s Lula Take United Stance Against U.S.

By Austin Ramzy & Samantha Pearson; April 14, 2023

HONG KONG—Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva struck a unified pose in defiance of U.S. foreign and trade policy in a meeting in Beijing on Friday, adding weight to Beijing’s pushback against what it sees as a Washington-led containment effort.

“We will work to expand trade and balance world geopolitics,” Mr. da Silva wrote on Twitter after meeting with Mr. Xi.

Mr. Xi called the Brazilian leader an “old friend of the Chinese people” who has “promoted breakthrough developments in relations between the two countries.”

Mr. da Silva spent two days traveling through China before meeting with Mr. Xi, part of an effort by the leftist Brazilian leader to deepen ties with his country’s largest trading partner following a period of relative isolation under his right-wing predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.

He was greeted by Mr. Xi outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, where they reviewed a Chinese military honor guard and walked past dozens of children waving Chinese and Brazilian flags.

In contrast to Mr. Bolsonaro and his pro-Washington stance, Mr. da Silva has used his trip to push for a greater role for China and Brazil in the global economic infrastructure. During a speech in Shanghai on Thursday, he took aim at the global dominance of the U.S. dollar, a nod to Beijing’s bid to boost the role of the Chinese yuan in trade.

“Every night I ask myself why every country needs to trade in the dollar,” Mr. da Silva said in his speech, delivered at the inauguration of his ally, former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, as president of the New Development Bank, a multilateral institution founded by members of the Brics, a group of large developing nations that includes Brazil and China. “Who decided it was the dollar after the disappearance of the gold standard?”

Mr. da Silva’s trip, which follows recent visits to China by leaders from France, Spain, Singapore, Malaysia and the European Commission, will help Mr. Xi’s efforts to develop China’s global clout, analysts said.

“Xi’s positioned China as a place where you can hedge for better deals, where you can push back against the U.S. a little more,” said Manoj Kewalramani, a China studies fellow at the Takshashila Institution, an Indian think tank. “To that effect, he’s been successful.”

The Chinese leader’s meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron yielded a diplomatic victory for Beijing after Mr. Macron argued Europe shouldn’t follow the lead of the U.S. in its tensions with China over Taiwan. Mr. Xi gave little ground in return, making no firm commitment to Mr. Macron’s plea that he use his influence to “bring Russia to its senses” to stop its war in Ukraine.

Messrs. Xi and da Silva have both raised concerns about how the Ukraine conflict is affecting the Global South, as the war disrupts supply chains and causes commodity prices to fluctuate.

Beijing called for a cease-fire and talks in a 12-point position paper in February that has been criticized by American and European diplomats as largely accommodating Russia interests. Beijing has generally endorsed Moscow’s view of the conflict, which it has declined to describe as an invasion or a war. Mr. Xi has yet to call Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, despite meeting and speaking with Russian President Vladimir Putin on several occasions since the start of the war.

Mr. da Silva has proposed a “peace club” with nations such as India and Indonesia to mediate an end to the war. While Brazil has supported United Nations General Assembly resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion, Mr. da Silva said last year that Mr. Zelensky was as responsible for the war as Mr. Putin. ​​He has also suggested Kyiv may have to give up territory annexed by Russia in Crimea, a proposal Ukraine has rejected.

Security and international relations analysts have questioned whether an outside push for peace will achieve any breakthrough, with Ukraine intent on recovering lost territory and Mr. Putin apparently unwilling to pull back.

Mr. da Silva, who took office in January after previously serving as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010, has been vocal in his support of Beijing’s efforts to resist American pressure.

On Thursday, he visited a technology development center for Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese telecommunications company that Washington has labeled a national security threat. There, Mr. da Silva was given a presentation about the use of next-generation 5G technology in telemedicine and education.

“A very strong investment in research and innovation,” he wrote on Twitter.

U.S. officials have previously asked Brazil to support efforts to exclude Huawei from 5G networks over concerns it would be used for surveillance. Mr. Bolsonaro agreed to allow Huawei into the country after facing pressure from farmers who feared Beijing would target commodity exports in retaliation for restrictions on the Chinese company.

China surpassed the U.S. to become Brazil’s largest trading partner in 2009. China is a major buyer of Brazilian soybeans, iron ore and crude oil, with total exports to China reaching $89.7 billion last year, according to government data. Brazil is also a leading destination for Chinese investment, particularly in information technology, electrical power and oil and gas.

Mr. da Silva is being accompanied by about 40 top officials, and some 20 bilateral deals are expected to be signed during his four-day trip, Brazilian officials have said.

Photo: ken ishii/pool/Shutterstock

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