The following article is based on an interview with Zhu Tianxiang, director of the Center for BRICS Political and Security Studies at the Institute of BRICS Studies of Sichuan International Studies University. It was first published in the Chinese newspaper the Global Times on July 16, 2022.
BRICS, a grouping of major emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — has become one of the trending buzzwords in global public opinion lately. After Iran and Argentina applied to join the BRICS mechanism, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt also plan to knock on the door of the BRICS for official membership, Sputnik quoted BRICS International Forum President Purnima Anand as saying.
If the trend tells anything, it is the growing charm of BRICS’ strength and values, as well as the loss of attraction in the current Western-dominated global governance.
Crises have been surfacing on a global level since the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Quite a few countries, especially those in the West, are being confronted with crippling inflation, untenable energy costs, looming recessions and food shortage. Yet BRICS countries have shown much less sensitivity and vulnerability than the United States and European countries amid these challenges.
The reason stems from BRICS members’ own strength and enhanced cooperation within the group. According to the World Bank, Russia holds the world’s largest natural gas reserves, the second-largest coal reserves and the eighth-largest oil reserves. Brazil has diverse agricultural products and vast mineral wealth. Their different advantages plus the promotion of BRICS’ cooperation on food supply and the exchanges of national currencies have made the group less impacted by the global crises.
More importantly, BRICS countries have the will, and, in different degrees, capability, to fix the deficit in global governance. In this regard, BRICS has already launched a series of innovations. Take the BRICS-led New Development Bank. The initial subscribed capital is equally distributed among the founding members — the five BRICS countries. The voting power of each member is also equal based on their shares in the capital stock of the bank.
This example, just a tiny part of the BRICS cooperation though, shows that BRICS is a group where the five countries are on a completely equal footing, with equal rights to speak, vote and make decisions. This is nothing like any Western alliance, where there is always a dominant member who has the biggest say in the bloc, and with crystal clear agenda — bloc confrontation.
When facing possible BRICS enlargement, the West can hardly hide their Cold War mentality. Since the BRICS summit was held in June, Western media outlets have been hyping the topic under the theme of East-West confrontation.
Earlier this month, US magazine Newsweek said that when NATO’s “largest expansion in decades” took place, “Beijing and Moscow are looking to take on new members of their own” blocs, and BRICS was named particularly in the article. By the end of June, The Hill published a headline, “An out-of-touch G7 could lose global leadership to BRICS.”
On Twitter, some Western netizens also describe BRICS as a rival of G7 (Group of Seven) and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It cannot be more narrow-minded to view BRICS in this way. As for some Westerners, when some countries get together, they are bonding to have a target to oppose, just like what the West has always done.
Cooperation has been one of the natural needs across the globe, as well as a normal state in international relations for a long time. Why deliberately twist a specific cooperation into a bloc confrontation? BRICS has simply no interest in becoming another G7 or NATO.
Instead, as stipulated in the organization’s spirit, namely “openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation,” BRICS calls for global security and economic governance, while emphasizing not only South-South cooperation, but also dialogues between South and North.
What BRICS is against are power politics, hegemony, the law of the jungle, all of which basically determine that in international politics, only major powers have a say, and small countries must be obedient, or even be exploited. Against this backdrop, BRICS calls for fairness and justice, a global governance in which developing countries have their due status and their voices can be heard. The BRICS just want to bring a balance in the current global order.
When the West compares BRICS with G7 and NATO, it has turned a blind eye to the fact that G7 has long become a rich countries’ club, and NATO’s mentality is still trapped in the Cold War. Whenever G7 attempts to put up a show to discuss various global issues nowadays, all it really cares about is containment of China and Russia.
But BRICS advocates win-win for the entire world, that is, a win-win not just for the developing countries, but also for the developed powers. This is the biggest difference between BRICS and Western blocs.
In the past, developing countries did not have enough strength to reach the goal. Now the timing has come.
Regulations or legal procedures for BRICS enlargement are under discussion. It is thus unlikely that BRICS will absorb new members any time soon before relevant principles and rules are carried out. But when Turkey, a NATO ally, applies for BRICS membership, it suggests that BRICS, be it in its capacity or ideas, represents something much cooler than US-dominated rules and order. At least it signals that the world needs a reformed governance where Western voices are not the only sound.
Source: Global Times, 16 July 2022. https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202207/1270661.shtml