Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
August 29, 2023
It is true that “BRICS Expansion Is No Triumph for China.” But the argument itself is alarming or overreacting. First of all, the world changes with time, if the “Western Global Order” does not innovate, it will be obsolete sooner or later. Secondly, the old establishments including UN, IMF, World Bank, WTO, international court etc. must reform as soon as possible otherwise they are not functional.
This reform process is very difficult and challenging, because this is a connected globe but there are many individual entities with many different ideas/needs. BRICS’ membership nations are different from G-7 or G-20, but neither G-7~G-20 nor BRICS will be able to dominating the process of reforming the “Global Orders.” We should view these “international clubs” like sub-committees for managing global issues. These sub-committees are not military alliances with some specifically defined enemy lists and/or strategic goals. Rather than approaching each other as antagonistic or rivalries, they should interact with each other routinely and even attend other group’s meetings as observers.
China hopes expanded Brics will turn world upside down
AUGUST 25 2023
For China, a decision on Thursday to expand the Brics bloc of developing economies by adding six new countries is all about trying to right the perceived wrongs of a global system that favours the US-led west. The move to add Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to the five existing members of Brics — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — creates a grouping of impressive size and influence. After decades of the western world dominating global institutions, China is attempting to build a club that, by some measures of economic power, would turn the world upside down. “Beijing’s focus is on creating a counterweight to the G7,” said Moritz Rudolf, research fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center in the US. “Strengthening the Brics grouping is a valuable tool in the pursuit for Chinese leadership.” The size of the new 11-country grouping puts the G7 — which consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US and EU — into the shade. Excluding the EU — which is classified as a G7 “non-enumerated” member — the group of advanced democracies accounts for just 9.8 per cent of the world’s population and 29.8 per cent of global gross domestic product, calculated by purchasing power parity (PPP). The new Brics group, by contrast, will account for 47 per cent of the world’s population and 37 per cent of its GDP by PPP. The new grouping also possesses the lion’s share of the world’s oil and gas reserves, as well as a huge endowment of other natural resources. All this, China hopes, will give it the heft that Beijing has long sought to reform the way the world works. Indeed, China cherishes many ambitions, some of which were discernible through a heavy loam of diplomatic language in the 26-page declaration after the Brics summit this week. “Beijing seems to have been particularly successful at shaping the agenda and the Brics discussion this year,” said Helena Legarda, lead analyst at Merics, a Berlin-based think-tank on China. “Much of the language in the leaders’ declaration reflects Chinese positions.” A repeated call in the declaration was for the reform of international institutions to give more power to developing countries. One of these demands was for an overhaul of the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank and the IMF. Currently, the operations of both institutions are dominated by the US, Japan and other western democracies. The call for reform included an explicit demand for “a greater role for emerging markets and developing countries, including in leadership positions”, the declaration said. Traditionally, the World Bank’s president has been an American citizen, while the IMF’s managing director has been European. The declaration also urged “comprehensive reform” of the UN, which Beijing regards as central to global governance. One reform demanded was to the Security Council, the UN’s most powerful body, which should “increase the representation of developing countries”, the declaration said. The Security Council currently consists of five permanent members — two of which are China and Russia — and 10 non-permanent members. Both Brazil and India, as well as other developing nations, are seeking elevated powers at the top of the UN. This suite of reforms, if achieved, would have to come largely at the expense of some developed countries’ influence in the World Bank, IMF and in the UN. For this reason, such demands have aroused considerable resistance from G7 countries and others in the developed world. The new Brics bloc also faces other challenges. Not all members — particularly India and Brazil — are comfortable with the overtly anti-western tone espoused by China and Russia in meetings, said one official from a Brics country, who declined to be further identified. Recommended The rise of the middle powers China’s blueprint for an alternative world order Geopolitical unity is also elusive on some other key issues, including the war in Ukraine, analysts said. Amid a long list of calls for political solutions to prevail in crises in Sudan, Haiti, the Palestinian territories and elsewhere, the wording on Ukraine was notably awkward. “We recall our national positions concerning the conflict in and around Ukraine,” the declaration said. There was no mention of Russia’s invasion and subsequent aggression. “It will be difficult for Beijing to create a parallel structure to the G7,” said Rudolf, adding that levels of political mistrust between some Brics members were high. Nevertheless, the expanded grouping represents the most influential bloc the developing world has ever produced. There is a sense that after decades of accepting the west’s rules, the era of the “global south” is dawning. That feeling may be enough to give it traction.
BRICS Expansion Is No Triumph for China
But it is a warning shot for the West to end its strategic slumber in the global south.
By C. Raja Mohan, a columnist at Foreign Policy and a senior fellow at the Asia Society Policy Institute.
AUGUST 29, 2023, 4:31 AM
Those who believe that the world is moving to a post-Western global order saw their belief confirmed last week. At its annual summit in Johannesburg, the BRICS forum of five major emerging economies—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—announced a major expansion by inviting six new members. In January, the group will add Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. If economic weight is a measure of power, this will be a singularly potent group. Together, the 11 BRICS states will have a higher share of global GDP based on purchasing power parity than the G-7 industrialized countries.
Depending on where you stand, you might celebrate a more powerful BRICS bloc or worry about it—but neither reaction is warranted. An expanded BRICS will not turn the world upside down, nor does it herald the rise of a post-Western global order. Equally outlandish is the claim that BRICS expansion marks a major victory for China, Russia, and their attempts to build an anti-Western bloc among the countries of the global south—or that BRICS is the core of a new Non-Aligned Movement.
All these potential interpretations take little heed of the internal dynamics of an expanded BRICS and their implications. By confusing their hopes and fears about the global order with analysis, the Western commentariat reveals its enormous ignorance about the countries of the global south, their diverse interests, and their engagement with the great powers.
There is no doubt that the sudden clamor for BRICS membership from so many significant countries has colored the analysis. But expanding the list of members does not turn BRICS into a potent bloc. If anything, the expansion only undermines what little cohesion the group had before the expansion.
The growing geopolitical confrontation between China and India already casts a shadow over BRICS and any attempt at creating a cohesive agenda. With new members come new conflicts: Egypt and Ethiopia are fiercely at loggerheads over Nile waters, while Iran and Saudi Arabia are regional foes—notwithstanding their Beijing-brokered attempt to make peace. These and other fault lines will make it much harder to turn the combined economic weight of the BRICS states into an influential political force in global affairs.
The smarter policy folks in the West should whine less about the supposed rise of BRICS—and focus instead on the many contradictions within the group they can exploit.
Those who think of BRICS as a new Non-Aligned Movement are unintentionally right on one aspect: BRICS will be just as ineffective as the original in turning soaring rhetoric on global issues into concrete, practical outcomes. In pushing for BRICS enlargement, China merely bought itself a bigger talk shop. If Beijing wants to build a bigger anti-Western tent, it can’t do it when the BRICS tent already has so many friends of the United States inside it.
Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are close U.S. security partners. Even if they have their differences with Washington, they are unlikely to abandon U.S. security guarantees for untested Chinese promises, let alone protection by the formless sack of potatoes that is BRICS. In his address to the Johannesburg summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on BRICS nations to “practice true multilateralism” and “reject the attempt to create small circles or exclusive blocs.” Well, India is already part of at least two such “small circles.” One is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, with Australia, Japan, and the United States; the other is the I2U2 forum that joins India with Israel, the UAE, and the United States. In Johannesburg, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi even called for “resilient and inclusive supply chains,” an obvious euphemism for reducing economic dependence on China.
If China sees BRICS as a forum for expanding its role in the global south, so does India—and, for that matter, the Saudis and Emiratis, who are willing to deploy large chunks of the capital they have accumulated over the decades for economic and political gain in Africa and beyond. In fact, the competition among BRICS countries for global influence is perhaps more consequential for the group than their presumed common interest in countering the West. Instead of shaping a new theater of contestation with the West, the BRICS forum will be a theater of contestation itself.
The smarter policy folks in the West should therefore whine less about the supposed rise of BRICS—and focus instead on the many contradictions within the forum they can exploit.
This is not the first time Russia and China have tried to promote an anti-Western coalition. Indeed, history tells us that Moscow and Beijing overestimate the possibilities for uniting non-Western societies against the West. When hopes for a communist revolution in Germany failed after World War I, the founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, turned to Asia and promised to “set the East ablaze” with revolutions against global capitalism and Western colonial overlords. At the 1920 Congress of the Peoples of the East in Baku, in Soviet-occupied Azerbaijan, the Communist International gathered a colorful but motley group of nationalists, revolutionaries, and religious leaders. Lenin’s effort did not get very far as rising nationalism made Asia inhospitable to Bolshevik ideas.