Last March, as Chinese President Xi Jinping was finishing a state visit to Russia, he bid an emotional farewell to his host, President Vladimir Putin.

“Right now there are changes the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years,” the Chinese leader said, alluding to their common goal to overturn the U.S.-led global order, “and we are the ones driving these changes together.”

Last month, Xi left China for the second time this year, bound for Johannesburg for the 15th summit meeting of BRICS, the five-nation grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, The three-day summit was a transformative affair, with the group more than doubling its size by accepting six new members: Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia.