We recently noticed the BRICS summit in South Africa. Expectations in our part of the world were not hopeful before the summit in a sense that decisions from Johannesburg would mean an encouraging injection for the global economy. However, it was recognizable that China managed to launch another brick in its global political economic strategy by establishing its de facto leadership for the new and enlarged BRICS II organization.
Democracy clearly underrepresented …
I have been watching BRIC(S) from its start in the early days of this century – i.e. before South Africa was invited to join – as quite an unnecessary organization. BRIC(S) was initially launched as a smart financial marketing idea of an American investment bank without any other logical unifying argument than putting together Brazil, Russia, India and China as the four largest emerging markets with – then – potentially good economic prospects.
Then, two of these four founding countries were not democratic (China -and at least partly – Russia), and two others could be described as democratic (India and Brazil, plus joining South Africa some years later).
Now, when BRICS II will come into force in a few months time, this previously quite balanced democratic participation in BRICS will not be maintained when the six invited new members will become part of BRICS II as well.
These six new BRICS countries are:
Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina.
It is indeed very obvious that none of these invited six countries can offer democratic standards and/or economic strength. There is all reason to believe that democracy in the new BRICS II will become clearly underrepresented.
… and weak economies totally overrepresented
Another angle may be a pure economic one. Also in this context there is nothing encouraging to find – apart from currently more or less healthy macroeconomic stability in India, Brazil and the oil producers of Saudi Arabia and UAE.
So what can the 11-nation BRICS II finally offer themselves and the rest of the world? In my view not very much. There are too many internal imbalances. May be some increase of intra-trade (mainly for oil and other commodities) could show up. An obvious disadvantage is the missing positive homogeneity between the countries.
However, one more aspect still remains to be considered in the BRICS II context: China’s global political and trade economic strategy with BRICS II as perfect tool.
Application of the old and new Chinese diversification efforts
As I have written before in this blog, China has been starting to work more ambitiously on its intensified and revised geopolitical strategy. I have followed China’s internationalization and globalization for many years and have to admit that China since the start of the opening-up reform policy by the prominent reformer Deng Xiaoping had a logical strategy in their search for enlarged international partnership through all the years.
The international reform steps in the opening-up context were during the years about FDI and more foreign investment in China, the move of Western labor force (experts) to China, increasing exchange of students with abroad both from and to China, mutual cooperation in research –> altogether different steps to improve skills, technology, products and productivity with ideas from outside China. So far about the traditional diversification objectives.
Gradually after China’s important WTO entry, Chinese political leaders also announced objectives for developing China into a technological superpower and for increasing its global political power, more lately very much by focusing on (emerging) countries that appreciate incoming Chinese investments and (expensive) financial support (https://blogg.lnu.se/china-research/?paged=3, from February 17, 2023). Thus, we also have some examples of China’s modern diversification strategy, happening to a high extent geographically.
When summing up some international/global organizations below with obvious strategic interest, you can find some obvious examples where China already is or will become the dominant player, such as:
BRICS II – certainly an organization ready for increasing Chinese influence
Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) – infrastructure projects, fully led by China
RCEP (The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership RCEP) includes 14/15 East Asian and Pacific nations working for free trade among each others in a longer perspective (without having the U.S. in the organization). It is quite easy to imagine that China at some point will become more active within RCEP as well.
Looking at these examples clarifies well that China wants to expand its global influence. This will happen via bilateral action or via international organizations. Strengthened global platforms will become even more important to President Xi Jinping and the CP, since China nowadays domestically performs insufficiently after many years of boom.
Affiliate Professor at the School of Business and Economics, Linnaeus University