China's Xi criticizes sanctions at meeting of BRICS nations

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In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a keynote speech in virtual format at the opening ceremony of the BRICS Business Forum in Beijing Wednesday, June 22, 2022. The conflict in Ukraine has "sounded an alarm for humanity," Chinese leader Xi Jinping said Wednesday, as China continues to assume a position of neutrality while backing its ally Russia. (Yin Gang/Xinhua via AP)

BEIJING – Chinese President Xi Jinping opened a meeting of leaders of major developing countries on Thursday by saying the world should oppose unilateral sanctions and efforts by some countries to maintain their political and military power.

Xi's remarks at the virtual meeting of the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, known collectively as “BRICS,” reflect China's tacit backing of Russia in the war in Ukraine and its desire to form an international alliance opposed to the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.

The BRICS meeting comes amid rising concerns over the global economic outlook and a growing political divide between China and India.

Nations need to “reject the Cold War mentality and bloc confrontation, oppose unilateral sanctions and abuse of sanctions, and reject the small circles built around hegemonism by forming one big family belonging to a community with a shared future for humanity," Xi was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

While no agenda has been issued for the two-day talks, Ukraine is likely to feature heavily in the background. China has refused to condemn Russia's invasion while criticizing sanctions brought against Moscow. India has bought large amounts of Russian oil at a heavy discount, and South Africa abstained in a United Nations vote condemning Russia's actions.

Along with Xi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are joining the discussions.

China has sought to use the BRICS meetings to further its vision of an alliance to counter the U.S.-led liberal democratic world order while expanding its economic and political footprint.

That has produced few tangible results, but Xi remains committed to the idea of an alternative — and principally authoritarian — mode of global governance, investing heavily in countries such as Cambodia while cracking down on civil rights in Hong Kong and boosting its military to assert its territorial claims in the South China Sea and threats to annex Taiwan by force.

In an address to the BRICS Economic Summit on Wednesday, Xi said the conflict in Ukraine has “sounded an alarm for humanity,” continuing its formal position of neutrality while backing its ally Russia.

Xi said imposing sanctions could act as a “boomerang” and a “double-edged sword,” and that the global community would suffer from “politicizing, mechanizing and weaponizing” global economic trends and financial flows.

“Economic globalization is an objective requirement for the development of productive forces and an irresistible historical trend,” Xi said.

In a recorded video, Bolsonaro made no mention of any country and said that “the current international context is a cause for concern because of the risks to trade and investment flows to the stability of energy supply chains and investment."

“Brazil’s response to these challenges is not to close itself off. On the contrary, we have sought to deepen our economic integration," he added.

The BRICS collective was founded in 2009 when the countries were seen as the potential engine for future global economic growth.

Since then, South Africa and Brazil have seen their economies become mired in crisis while China’s growth has sharply declined and Russia has become embroiled in its invasion of Ukraine and punishing economic sanctions imposed by the West.

China and India have meanwhile feuded over their disputed border and New Delhi’s defense partnership with the U.S., Japan and Australia in what is known as “The Quad.” Skirmishes along the frontier resulted in a major standoff in 2020 leading to casualties on both sides.