Xi Jinping tells BRICS leaders 'we're all in the same boat' as he takes veiled swipe at US

Chinese President called on key emerging economies to uphold multilateralism and “oppose unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction” at a time of unprecedented crisis, taking a veiled swipe at Washington.

Addressing the annual summit of BRICS leaders – a grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – Xi said the world was caught between a pandemic and “momentous changes” not seen in 100 years, and that the five nations were “all in the same boat”.

“When the wind is strong and the tides are high, we must be even more focused on our direction,” he said on Tuesday via video link.

Xi said despite the economic and social disruption brought by the coronavirus pandemic, they should be “convinced that the theme of our times – peace and development – has not changed, and the trend towards multipolarity and economic globalisation cannot be turned around”.

“We should resolve differences through consultation and negotiation, oppose interference in internal affairs, oppose unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction, and jointly create a peaceful and stable development environment,” the Chinese leader said.

He did not mention the United States, but Beijing has previously hit out at Washington over its sanctions against Chinese officials and institutions deemed to have caused harm in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Xi also said the five nations should work together to fight the pandemic and to implement the Paris climate agreement. Donald Trump withdrew the US from the climate pact, but Joe Biden has vowed to rejoin the agreement on the first day of his presidency.

The president’s remarks came after special adviser for climate change affairs Xie Zhenhua on Monday told the virtual European Business Summit there was huge potential for China and Europe to cooperate on international climate governance and low-carbon development. He also said Beijing hoped Washington would return to the Paris accord.

“There have been many setbacks and problems in the 12 years of climate talks that I’ve been participated in, but the European Union and countries like France and Germany have been active in pushing forward and they have shown good leadership,” said Xie, who is also dean of the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University.

The BRICS nations have met annually since 2009, seeking to reform international governance based on their national interests. But analysts say it is unclear to what extent member states can cooperate given the changes in their domestic and geopolitical situations over the past decade.

“The situation is different compared to 10 years ago. We don’t know if there will be a common solution to the problems the five countries are facing,” said Pang Zhongying, an international relations professor at Ocean University in Qingdao.

“For instance, BRICS countries don’t have much in the way of common values or goals on climate change,” he said.

In his election campaign in 2018, Brazilian President pledged to pull Brazil out of the Paris climate accord, but later said he would keep the country in the agreement “for now”.

India, meanwhile, said at the Madrid climate talks last year that it would insist on the principle of “equity and common but differentiated responsibilities”. It also urged developed countries to take the lead in undertaking ambitious actions and “scale up their financial support”.

But China has become more progressive on climate change issues in recent years. In September, President Xi made a bold pledge for China to hit peak carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 during an address to the UN General Assembly.

Climate change is a key area where China wants to work with other countries, including in the BRICS grouping, according to Pang.

“The world is in the midst of a complicated crisis and China wants to play a bigger role (in solving problems),” he said. “But it’s a question of how big a role it can realistically play.”

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