President Lula da Silva Says Brazil, China Can Change World Governance Together

The Brazilian leader’s trip to China was broadly pitched as an opportunity to strengthen economic and trade ties between the two nations

President Xi Jinping (left) welcomes President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and at an Official Reception Ceremony.
By Simone Iglesias
April 15, 2023 | 08:52 AM

Bloomberg — Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva defended stronger ties with Beijing in order to reorient the global geopolitical order, possibly boosting Chinese plans to counter decades of US preeminence in world affairs.

“Our interests in the relationship with China are not just commercial,” Lula said during a meeting with Zhao Leji, the chairman of China’s National Peoples Congress standing committee, in Beijing on Friday. “We have political interests and we have interests in building a new geopolitics so that we can change world governance by giving more representation to the United Nations.”

The Brazilian leader’s trip to China was broadly pitched as an opportunity to strengthen economic and trade ties between the two nations. Russia’s war in Ukraine, meanwhile, was one of the key themes in Friday’s bilateral meeting between Lula and Chinese President Xi Jinping, as both leaders seek larger diplomatic roles in efforts to restore peace.

“It’s important that the US stops encouraging war and starts talking about peace,” Lula told reporters on Saturday as he closed his trip to China.

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But the timing of the visit, which came just two months after a similar trip to Washington, reflected the importance of both nations to Brazil and the strategic tightrope Lula and other leaders have been forced to walk as the two superpowers vie for influence across Latin America and the world.

Read More: Xi Hosts Brazil’s Lula in Diplomatic Push for Ukraine Cease-Fire

Lula, who previously served as president from 2003 to 2010, has long favored a multilateral approach to global affairs in line with Brazil’s traditional foreign policy. He has spent the opening months of his presidency seeking to strengthen relations with both the US and China, while making it clear that Brazil won’t be forced to choose sides.

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“When I talk to the US, I’m not worried about what China is thinking,” he said. “Everyone negotiates in defense of its sovereignty.”

UN Reform

In Beijing, as in Washington, the leftist leader sought backing for reforms that could give Brazil and the developing world more influence in global matters that China and the US have increasingly come to dominate. He pushed China to back Brazil’s desire to win a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and on Friday said that it was necessary to make deeper reforms to the United Nations.

“The United Nations needs to have the strength to coordinate the balance that the world needs for people to live in peace,” he said.

China “recognized the need to reform” the UN and the Security Council in order to make them “more representative and democratic,” according to a joint summary of the trip released by both countries. The Biden administration in February signaled its support for reforms that would give Latin America and Africa permanent roles on the Security Council, a position Brazil has sought for more than a decade.

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Brazil signed an assortment of new economic agreements with China, its largest trading partner, during the trip, including pacts on agricultural trade, aviation and investment. That added to a list of trade wins amassed last month, when a delegation of more than 100 Brazilian business leaders traveled to China as part of Lula’s originally scheduled visit, which was delayed because of a mild case of pneumonia.

Displacing the Dollar

But other aspects of the trip may raise eyebrows in the US, which is Brazil’s second-largest trading partner and has sought to improve its ties with Lula’s government since he took office in January.

On Thursday, the Brazilian leader called for the creation of an alternative currency to replace the dollar in foreign trade transactions between the BRICS nations, a bloc that along with China and Brazil includes Russia, India and South Africa.

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Lula’s visit to a Huawei Technologies facility in Shanghai on Thursday also held the potential to irk the US, which has sanctioned the technology company over national security concerns.

Ahead of the trip, Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira said that the Huawei visit shouldn’t been seen as a provocation in the US. Speaking to reporters in Beijing on Friday, Finance Minister Fernando Haddad said that Brazil had no intention of moving away from the US and instead expected more support from its hemispheric neighbor in the future.

Lula defended the stop at Huawei, saying Friday that it was meant to demonstrate that Brazil “has no prejudice against the Chinese people.”

“Nobody is going to forbid Brazil from improving its relationship with China,” he said.

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