China's Xi calls for accelerated BRICS expansion

BRICS Summit in Johannesburg

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's President Xi Jinping called for the acceleration of the expansion of the BRICS group on Wednesday, a goal the world's second largest economy has long harboured.

Addressing a summit of the bloc's leaders in South Africa's commercial capital Johannesburg, Xi said he was glad to see that developing countries had shown great enthusiasm in participating in BRICS and many of them having applied to join.

"We should let more countries join the BRICS family to pool wisdom and efforts to make global governance more just and equitable," Xi said.

The bloc comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Its leaders were weighing on Wednesday rules for admitting new members to the grouping.

South Africa said last month that more than 40 other nations had expressed interest in joining the organisation, which aims to offset the perceived hegemony of the U.S.-led West in global affairs. Of those, 22 had formally asked to join, it said.

China has long sought BRICS' expansion, hoping that broader membership will lend clout to a grouping already home to about 40% of the world's population and a quarter of global gross domestic product.

Russia is also keen to expand membership while South African President Cyril Ramaphosa voiced support for the idea at a bilateral meeting with Xi on Tuesday.

Xi also said the BRICS countries have agreed to launch a study group on artificial intelligence (AI) and further expand cooperation on AI including by strengthening information exchange and technical cooperation.

(Reporting by Ethan Wang and Liz Lee; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)