Xi says BRICS nations should stand up against protectionism

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday called for the world to reject protectionism even as American and European pressure mounts on Beijing to lower market barriers, speaking at the start of a Chinese-led summit of five large emerging economies now overshadowed by North Korea's sixth nuclear test.

Lamenting that "protectionism and an inward-looking mentality are on the rise," Xi said that "only openness delivers progress and only inclusiveness sustains such progress."

Xi was speaking to business representatives of the BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — a day before he opens a summit with the leaders of these major emerging markets in the southeastern Chinese city of Xiamen. This will be the ninth summit of the BRICS grouping, which came together about a decade ago to push for an alternative world order that wasn't dominated by Western nations.

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China has long been accused of putting up unfair barriers to foreign companies. However, Xi has become a leader who speaks out in favor of globalization at a time when protectionist sentiments are on the rise in Western countries, including in the U.S. under President Donald Trump.

The summit is another chance for Xi to showcase his leadership of a country that wants to project itself as a central pillar of 21st-century global governance. But the event has been overshadowed by North Korea conducting its sixth nuclear test earlier Sunday, apparently its most powerful yet.

Though Xi did not address the North's nuclear test in his speech, China's foreign ministry strongly condemned the detonation and urged Pyongyang to "stop taking erroneous actions that deteriorate the situation."