China has thrown its weight behind plans to expand the loosely-defined BRICS club of large emerging economies, which is seeking to assert its political and economic clout on the global stage.
The BRICS nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, which represent a quarter of the global economy, are meeting for three days, and interest in joining the group has surged.
In a speech read on his behalf by his Commerce Minister Wang Wentao at the start of the BRICS summit in South Africa, President Xi Jinping said, "hegemonism is not in China's DNA" on Tuesday.
He said the talks taking place in Johannesburg were not aimed at "asking countries to take sides, or creating bloc confrontation, rather to expand the architecture of peace and development".
"Whatever resistance there may be, BRICS, a positive and stable force for goodwill, continue to grow," he said.
"We will forge a stronger BRICS strategic partnership, ...actively advance membership expansion", and "help make the international order more just and equitable".
China is the BRICS' most powerful economy and Xi's state visit to South Africa, just his second international trip this year, comes as Beijing pushes to expand the group's membership rapidly.
BRICS works for 'global majority' – Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the group was on course to meet the aspirations of most of the world's population, according to recorded remarks at a summit of the BRICS.
"We cooperate on the principles of equality, partnership support, and respect for each other’s interests, and this is the essence of the future-oriented strategic course of our association, a course that meets the aspirations of the main part of the world community, the so-called global majority," Putin said.
Putin was unable to attend the summit in person because of an arrest warrant issued for him in March by the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing him of war crimes in Ukraine.
He said the summit would discuss in detail the question of switching trade between member countries away from the US dollar and into national currencies, a process in which the BRICS' New Development Bank would play a big role.
"The objective, irreversible process of de-dollarisation of our economic ties is gaining momentum," he said.
The summit in Johannesburg has underscored divisions with the West over the war in Ukraine, and the support Russia enjoys from its other BRICS partners at a time of global isolation.
South Africa, China and India have not condemned Russia's invasion, while Brazil has refused to join Western nations in sending arms to Ukraine or imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva are also at the talks where some 50 other leaders have been invited.
Representing 40 percent of the world's population, the BRICS nations share a common desire for a global order they see as better reflecting their interests and rising clout.
"We want to sit at the negotiating table on an equal footing with the European Union, the United States or any other country," Lula said in a social media post on Tuesday.
The theme of its 15th summit is "BRICS and Africa" and comes as the continent emerges as a renewed diplomatic battleground with the United States, Russia and China jostling for influence.
The bloc began as four nations in 2009 but expanded the following year with the addition of South Africa.
Officials say more than 40 countries have shown interest in joining from across the "Global South", a broad term referring to nations outside the West.
Like the BRICS members themselves, these countries run the gamut and include traditionally non-aligned nations like Indonesia and others that are openly hostile to the United States and its allies, like Iran.
"It goes to show that the BRICS family is growing in its importance, in its stature and also in its influence in the world," said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.