Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva left Tuesday for an official visit to China aimed at boosting the already deep ties between the Asian giant and Latin America's biggest economy.
The veteran leftist, who is due to meet his counterpart Xi Jinping Friday in Beijing, said he planned to invite Xi to come to Brazil to repay the visit.
"We're going to consolidate our relationship with China. I'm going to invite Xi Jinping to come to Brazil for a bilateral meeting, to get to know the country and to show him projects that will be of interest for Chinese investment," Lula said Monday evening.
He did not set a date for a possible Xi visit to Brazil.
Lula, 77, was initially scheduled to travel in late March to China, Brazil's biggest trading partner, but had to postpone after coming down with pneumonia.
He will arrive Wednesday, his office said, and start his agenda with a stop in Shanghai Thursday for the inauguration of his ally and fellow Brazilian ex-president Dilma Rousseff as head of the BRICS development bank, the group formed by top emerging economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Lula, who returned for a new term in January after leading Brazil from 2003 to 2010, is seeking to smooth relations with China, after ties deteriorated under his far-right predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.
In a delicate balancing act, he is also seeking closer ties with Chinese rival the United States, Brazil's second-biggest trading partner.
His visit with Xi comes after a high-profile White House meeting with President Joe Biden in February.
Lula is keen to reposition Brazil as a key player and deal broker on the international stage, after four years of relative isolation under Bolsonaro.
He and Xi are notably expected to discuss the Ukraine conflict, in which both hope to act as mediators -- despite Western concerns that they are overly cosy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Lula has some 40 high-level figures with him on the trip, including cabinet ministers, governors and members of Congress.
He will wrap up his trip with a one-day official visit to the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.