RIO DE JANEIRO – Beijing’s top diplomat offered a spirited defense of multilateralism on Friday at a conference of foreign minister of the BRICS nations: Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa.
“I want to express our solid support for multilateralism. Our countries can have different positions in different areas, but when we speak of the necessity of multilateralism, we are together,” Wang Yi said at Itamaraty palace in Rio de Janeiro.
Without mention of the United States, the Chinese foreign minister blasted unilateral measures such as sanctions – deployed by Washington against a growing list of countries – and trade protectionism.
The world’s two largest economies have been embroiled for a year in a trade war sparked by US President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on a wide range of Chinese imports.
“The current protectionism leads to a situation of bullying that undermines international trade and creates uncertainty around the world,” Wang said.
At the same time, he pointed to signs of growth in support for multilateralism.
“More and more, countries perceive that unilateralism is a retrograde movement in history which wants to take the world back to the law of the jungle in which the strong eliminate the week,” the Chinese official said.
As the top five emerging economies, the BRICS nations must play a leading role in the defense of multilateralism, of the United Nations and of international norms that guarantee free trade and countries’ development, Wang said.
“On global issues, we have to seek common interests and not individual ones,” he said, emphasizing that the BRICS’ stance toward international crises should be based on the principles of non-interference and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
The Chinese minister appeared to be alluding to the situation in Venezuela, where opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido swore in as interim president in January, denouncing the May 2018 re-election of leftist Nicolas Maduro as illegitimate.
Brazil, under far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, has joined the US in recognizing Guaido and imposing sanctions on Venezuela aimed at forcing Maduro from power.
No other BRICS member recognizes Guaido’s claim to the presidency, while Russia and China have provided the Maduro regime with both diplomatic and material support.
“We are against the use of force and we are committed to non-interference and respect for sovereignty,” Wang said in Rio. “International sanctions don’t work. Only negotiated solutions can prosper.”
He applied the same logic to tensions in the Persian Gulf, which has seen attacks on oil tankers and Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged vessel after the UK captured an Iranian ship near Gibraltar.
“All parties should remain calm,” China’s foreign minister told his counterparts from Brazil, Ernesto Araujo; Russia, Sergei Lavrov; India, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar; and South Africa, Naledi Pandor.