GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 637, 26 June 2022

BRICS SUMMIT: China hosts the 14 Summit; calls for inclusivity and collective action
Avishka Ashok

What happened?
On 23 June, China, being the Chair, hosted and initiated the 14th BRICS Summit in Xiamen city. President Xi Jinping delivered a keynote address at the virtual summit and called for openness in the world order while advocating multilateralism and opposing hegemonic politics. 

Xi's remarks stressed on opposing sanctions, promoting the emergence of non-Western powers, boosting innovation and cooperation, and repeatedly emphasized the importance of collective action and openness in the international order. Xi urged the BRICS member countries to expand the group and said: "This year we have, on separate occasions, had in-depth discussions on the question of membership expansion. It is important to advance this process to allow like-minded partners to become part of the BRICS family at an early date."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said: "The BRICS format has been consistently increasing its prestige and international influence. This is an objective process, since the five BRICS countries, as we all know, have immense political, economic, scientific, technical and human potential."

Indian Prime Minister Modi implored the members to improve connectivity and said: "There are multiple areas wherein through cooperation between BRICS nations, the citizens have benefitted. By increasing connectivity between BRICS Youth Summits, BRICS Sports, civil society organizations and think-tanks, we've strengthened our people-to-people connect."

South African President highlighted the benefits reaped by the country as a part of the group and said: "The BRICS membership of South Africa allows the country to employ additional and powerful tools in its fight to address its domestic triple challenge of unemployment, poverty, and inequality through science, technology, and innovation, energy, health, and education cooperation, as well as through BRICS financing for infrastructure development, capacity building, research, educational and skilling, trade, investment, and tourism opportunities."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called for joint efforts by the BRICS countries in reforming the United Nations system. During the BRICS Business Forum, Bolsonaro said: "The connection among our business communities is one of our priorities at BRICS. By getting to know each other better, our entrepreneurs can close deals that will result in mutual gains, also benefiting the workers in our countries."

At the Summit, the member countries adopted the BRICS 2022 declaration which placed emphasis on "Strengthening and reforming global governance, working in solidarity to combat COVID-19, safeguarding peace and security, promoting Economic recovery, expediting implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and deepening people-to-people exchanges and institutional development." 

What is the background?
First, a brief note on the BRICS. The group has evolved from being an acronym depicting the fastest growing economies in 2001 to holding annual summits and discussing political challenges and issues of mutual interest. BRICS aimed to deepen cooperation amongst these high potential economies and catalyze the pace of development by helping each other in the process. The group includes Track I, Track II and Track III engagement mechanisms and conducts diverse forums such as the BRICS Outreach Dialogue, BRICS Plus Concept, BRICS Young Scientists Forum and more. The group called for structural changes in the world economy and established the need to include emerging markets in all spheres of politics. BRICS also set up the New Development Bank, which successfully aided 44 projects worth USD 12.4 billion. 

Second, the impact of BRICS. The 14th Summit established the achievements of the group and promoted the idea that the BRICS was more successful than other organizations and international groups initiated by the West. Combined, the five countries form 42 per cent of the world's population and 24 per cent of the global GDP. The group is considered to be the engine of global economic growth as they make for 16 per cent of the total trade. Moreover, BRICS represents diversity and inclusivity in the South-South cooperation by virtue of having one member from Europe, East Asia, South Asia, Africa and Latin America. 

Third, the war in Eastern Europe. BRICS has portrayed a united front on the war in Eastern Europe. Out of the five countries, China, India, and South Africa had abstained from voting on the UN resolution against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. China stressed on the "no-limits" friendship with Russia and helped the country economically in the past few months. India and South Africa have chosen to remain uninvolved, given their bilateral trade and financial ties. Even though Brazil voted in favour of the resolution at the UN, President Bolsonaro later explained that Brazil would not pick sides in the war. 

Fourth, increased South-South cooperation. As NATO and EU consider the inclusion of Ukraine, other Eastern European countries and Scandinavian countries, China and Russia are now looking to increase their engagement in the South-South cooperation. BRICS is also considering the idea of heightened engagement with the "BRICS-Plus" which was first proposed in 2017 by China. 

What does it mean?
The 14th BRICS summit reiterated the need to collectively address global challenges and engage with more countries in the developing world. A few countries within the group consider BRICS as a tool to engage further with other Latin American and African countries as they foresee potential and believe in uniting the emerging economies against the West. The evolution of the objectives of the group from economic to political unitedness shows the changing nature of the international order. It also clarifies China and Russia's intentions in creating an anti-West grouping and increasing their influence in the South-South cooperation.  

On Ukraine, although the joint declaration at the BRICS summit called for dialogue between the warring countries, the group did not elaborate on a clear solution to end the war. The action depicts the failure of the group to address and resolve conflicts because of the China-Russia superiority.

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