Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula met with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week in Beijing and solidified plans to work more closely in the future and “expand trade and balance in world geopolitics,” which was seen as the Global South’s latest rejection of U.S. hegemony.
Lula’s shift to China is in direct contrast to his predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, who worked to bring Brasília closer to Washington’s orbit. Lula questioned the role the U.S. played in world affairs, without mentioning any names. He has been a major advocate in replacing the U.S. dollar with a “BRICS currency.”
“Every night I ask myself why every country needs to trade in the dollar,” he said in an earlier speech, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Indeed, the meeting was focused heavily on economic growth and partnership. Lula did not travel lightly. Dozens of political representatives and more than 200 Brazilian business leaders joined him on the trip, which included a visit to the UAE.
Lula and Xi signed 15 agreements during the meeting, which is significant given that China is Brazil’s top trading partner.
Manoj Kewalramani, a Chinese studies fellow at the Takshashila Institution, an Indian think tank, told the paper that Xi has been effective in positioning China as a “place where you can hedge for better deals, where you can push back against the U.S. a little more.”
Pedro Brites, an expert on China at the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a university and think tank in Sao Paulo, told the Associated Press that Brazil can’t afford to “turn its back on the benefits China brings. The U.S. doesn’t have the capacity to absorb Brazil’s exports as China does, nor occupy the same space in investment and infrastructure.”
Of course, any country that does not fall into line behind U.S. policy is written off in the media and in Washington as some kind of rogue nation. The Washington Post wrote a critical article on Lula for just that, lamenting that he is not a reliable partner.
Responsible Statecraft wrote an article in response to The Post’s story that read: “Since the U.S. tends to be antagonized over remarkably minor things when other states pursue their own independent course, maybe the trouble here is not Lula’s lack of concern but rather Washington’s hypersensitivity.”
TRENDPOST: Lula represents leaders from the Global South who are pulling away from America hegemony. (See “BRAZIL’S LULA BLASTS U.S. OVER WEAPON TRANSFERS TO UKRAINE” 7 Jun 2022, “BRAZIL’S LULA SAYS UKRAINE’S COMEDIAN SHARES BLAME FOR WAR” 10 May 2022, and “IRANIAN WARSHIP’S VISIT TO BRAZIL DRAWS ISRAEL’S IRE” 24 Jan 2023.)
Lula told Time magazine in May, at the height of his presidential campaign, that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and the U.S. share blame for the war.
The former Brazilian president, who was convicted following an investigation into a bribery scandal to later have the charges annulled, told the magazine that Zelensky should have ignored Western officials and acknowledged Russia’s security concerns prior to the conflict.
“We should be having a serious conversation. OK, you were a nice comedian. But let us not make war for you to show up on TV,” Lula said. He said Zelensky should have resisted talking about Ukraine joining NATO.
In June, Lula questioned the U.S.’s judgment after Washington poured $40 billion in weapons into Ukraine while dealing with record-high inflation. He said sanctions against Russia that have badly damaged economies that still have not recovered from COVID-19 lockdowns.
“And now we are going to have to foot the bill because of the war on Ukraine,” he said. “Argentina, Bolivia will also have to pay. You’re not punishing Putin. You’re punishing many different countries, you’re punishing mankind.”
Lula, while in China, accused Washington of “encouraging” the war by providing Kyiv with an endless supply of weapons. Xi and Lula issued a statement after their meeting that said the “only viable way out of the crisis in Ukraine,” but offered few details on how peace could be achieved.